HIMSS: Most hospitals still developing mobile policies

By: Neil Versel | Dec 8, 2011        

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CentricityHow ubiquitous is mobility in healthcare? In a new survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), just five of the 164 mostly hospital-based respondents said that no group of professionals in their organizations used mobile devices to access information necessary for their everyday activities. And just one was an organization with no plans to offer mobile access to IT systems.

Some hospitals are farther along than others, though.

The first-ever mHIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, released Monday at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md., revealed that 38 percent of healthcare organizations had a formal strategy or policy regarding the use of mobile devices. But another 51 percent said they were developing a policy, according to the new mHIMSS, a subgroup of HIMSS that officially launched Monday. MobiHealthNews reported about mHIMSS two weeks ago.

Like so many others in healthcare, HIMSS VP Pat Wise has been hearing for a long time that mobile technology is disruptive. “We wanted to see how disruptive,” she tells MobiHealthNews.

Among those with policies, 90 percent said the policies covered smartphones, 87 percent laptops and 82 percent all cell phones. About 70 percent addressed tablets, and computers on wheels, while 63 percent had a policy for pager use.

Of particular note, four in five survey participants—predominantly IT directors and CIOs—said that many clinicians were interested in mobile technology. “This survey validates observations that clinicians are embracing mobile technology,” Wise says. “I see that all the time,” adds Wise, a registered nurse who often leads HIMSS site visits to Davies Award candidates.

“It works seamlessly with providers’ workflow,” Wise says.

Almost all respondents said they provide laptops or computers on wheels (COWs) to clinicians, and 77 percent give pagers to their doctors or nurses. But newer technologies seem to be gaining. According to the survey, 55 percent give their clinicians smartphones and 57 issue tablets not necessarily designed for healthcare, such as iPads. Some 42 percent offered healthcare-specific tablets like the Intel Mobile Clinical Assistant platform to clinicians.

Clinicians most often are using their mobile devices as reference tools; 84 percent look up non-protected health information, according to the survey respondents. However, 75 percent view patient information on mobiles—though only 30 percent collect patient data at the bedside.

Given that PHI flows over wireless networks, the CIOs and IT managers are predictably concerned about security. (Merely 28 percent said their organizations allowed users to store patient data on mobile devices.) Three in five respondents named inadequate privacy and security a barrier to use of mobile technology, more than any other category. Others said lack of funding and a shortage of IT staff were problems. Clinician resistance to technology was low on the list, cited by only 20 percent.

This is the first of a planned annual survey. “One of the things we wanted to do was establish a baseline,” Wise explains.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit is sponsored by Preventice.