From piecework to collaborative teamwork with mobile computing

25 June 2014 | Clifford Goldsmith, MD, Managing Director, US Healthcare Providers

As I’ve written in my previous blogs, to improve population health and achieve sustainable financial margins, we need to move from piecework to collaborative teamwork in healthcare. 

The good news is that today’s mobile technologies are enabling this crucial shift.

In fact, we are in the midst of a productivity leap similar to what happened in the early 90s. When I started working in health IT, most hospital computing was done on minicomputers (remember DEC and DGs). When PCs came onto the scene they offered a revolutionary new way using workstations on PC networks. The fact that PCs could get shared data from the network and apply the significant local computing power of the workstation (processing, screen resolution, applications, responsive keyboards, etc.) meant a tenfold increase in health professionals’ productivity.  And we even put these workstations on wheels (WOWs) to use this newfound productivity at the bedside.

A similar revolution is being brought about by the new age of truly mobile computing. To move from piecework to collaborative teamwork, health professionals need to be able to access information and people from wherever they are—whether at a patient’s hospital bedside, traveling between rooms and clinics, sitting in the physicians lounge, or even at home or the ballpark. Today’s personal, mobile devices are making that possible. And as these devices continue to get better at working the way health professionals do—with pen and voice capabilities, touch screens, being able to run apps side by side, and more—we will see at least another tenfold gain in clinician productivity.

Health professionals clearly want to access the information they need on fully mobile devices as evidenced from this recent survey. Health professionals need to be able to use electronic health record (EHR) systems on mobile devices. The good news is you can! EHR vendors are moving rapidly in this direction and several already have mobile apps. But there is no need to wait for the EHR vendors. All EHRs are designed to work on workstations that run Microsoft Windows.  With each generation of Windows we have been better and better at adding new functionality while ensuring maximal backward compatibility.  So with the latest version of Windows 8.1 and tablets like Surface Pro 3, you can start to immediately increase productivity by running your EHR on mobile devices. 

What you need to do is shift all future enterprise purchasing decisions from workstations to a defined selection of tablets and begin running your EHR today. Test it—it will work fine. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to clinicians who are doing that with Cerner, Epic, McKesson, Allscripts, and other EHRs already.

Sure, EHR vendors will increasingly get better at designing and modularizing their systems for these new mobile environments. Just as importantly, you will be able to take advantage of the myriad general productivity apps like IM, voice, and other unified communications and collaboration technologies that can work side-by-side with an EHR.  If you make the move to running your EHR on a mobile computing platform now, you will be ready to take advantage of new productivity apps that appear on the market each week. You will be ready for productivity today and into the future and you will ensure your financial sustainability in this new health economy.

Health organizations like New York Presbyterian Hospital and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) are doing just that. In fact, their work is so compelling they were both featured in a recent Information Week article, “20 Great Ideas to Steal in 2014.”

New York-Presbyterian Hospital's bedside tablet project replaces traditional nurse call buzzers with tablets that patients can also use to access personal health data as reported in the Information Week article. UPMC and Caradigm are developing a mobile Windows 8.1 tablet–based platform that lets physicians, with the touch of a screen, instantly switch between different clinical applications while maintaining patient context.

In the weeks to come, I’ll share more examples of how health organizations are taking advantage of today’s mobile technologies to improve productivity, and the health of their patients and their bottom line.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback, or to share your stories about how you’re increasing productivity with mobile computing. Send us an email, or let us know on Facebook or via Twitter.

Clifford Goldsmith, MD
Managing Director, US Healthcare Providers