Healthcare is a face-to-face business. Medical professionals typically see patients in person, listen to their health complaints, and address their patients’ conditions. As a mobile business, adopting mobile technology is a logical step.
Yet few medical providers have done so to date. Some physicians have successfully used Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) to submit electronic clinical orders via their mobile devices. And some pharmacists have used mobile devices with a barcode reader to successfully manage the delivery of medicine. Yet, as a whole, the healthcare industry has yet to go mobile.
I believe that now is the right time. Software is becoming “smarter.” A high percentage of employees already use smartphones and tablets in their personal lives. And smaller and lighter models, coupled with extended battery life and more efficient processors, are quickly turning mobile devices into a practical alternative to paper.
The question is where to start? Here are five steps that will help turn your mobile device project into a success:
- Decide how you want mobile devices to help you. Before implementing your project, it’s important to examine what you want to improve, and then resolve to start slowly. Do you want to help employees obtain more efficient access to patients’ health information? Do you want to enable your staff to view medical and operational information while on the go? It’s always tempting to go all out with an ambitious modernization project. Yet changing too much at once can overwhelm employees and ultimately harm productivity. The key is to decide what to change first and why.
- Assess what technology to use. Figure out what kind of mobile devices make the most sense for your organization. Will your IT department provide the mobile devices, or do you want your employees to bring their own? If it’s the latter, will you allow only pre-defined types of devices? Also, how will your IT department maintain the security and privacy of health information that your organization holds?
- Identify your mobile strategy. If you’ve thoroughly completed the first two steps above, you should be able to properly identify your mobile device strategy. This may involve a risk management strategy that takes into account factors such as patient privacy and HIPAA compliance. It should also include an IT strategy that enables your organization to manage and support different devices running different operating systems.
- Develop a process and implement it. With your mobile strategy in place, you now know what processes are needed to develop an effective implementation plan. The plan should document how mobile devices will improve workflows in your organization. It should also include procedures to be followed to ensure health data is safeguarded. When implementing your mobile device project, be sure to include the people who will actually be using the technology. The project won’t be successful if your staff doesn’t adopt it. Seeking the support of users prior to implementation is just as important as the implementation plan itself.
- Train your employees. While this is an obvious last step, it’s one that many organizations miss. As you implement your mobile device project, train your staff on how to use the mobile devices and any specialized apps. Don’t forget to educate them about best practices required to maintain security. And don’t forget to ask for feedback. Nobody knows how to run a healthcare organization better than your employees. Take their feedback and tweak your implementation and support plans as necessary.
Mobile devices offer a powerful opportunity for healthcare organizations to work more effectively. Healthcare providers can improve their efficiently, freeing up more time to spend with patients. And patients get the safer and better care they deserve. In the end, however, it’s only through a well conceived and implemented mobile strategy that everyone wins.
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