Perhaps the best-known hospital CIO in the country loves the potential of mobile devices to improve care, but he cautions that healthcare organizations had better understand and act to mitigate the risks mobility can introduce.
Writing on the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality’s Web M&M online journal, Dr. John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System in Boston, discusses his experience with mobile devices at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Halamka suggests hospitals need to develop best practices for employing mobile devices in clinical settings.
“At present, our mobile device policies [at BIDMC] include requirements to encrypt all data, to comply with specific password complexity settings and to follow infection control best practices,” the CIO writes. “We are investigating technologies to segregate personal and patient functions in a given device. We are also investigating the possibility of providing mobile devices to healthcare workers that can be checked out for a shift. To try to reduce security and distraction risks, we will pilot test several new policies such as restricting access to personal e-mail and social networking sites.”
According to Halamka, physicians and nurses at the hospital together have purchased more than 1,000 iPads and 1,600 iPhones with their own money—and that doesn’t even include other brands of smartphones clinicians might have. “Nearly 100 percent of our hospitalists and most of our emergency physicians use iPads for entering orders into the system, viewing test results and documenting in the medical record,” he writes.
He says that the multiple capabilities of smartphones—voice, text, video chat, photo sharing—make the devices powerful tools for coordinating care. But there are drawbacks, too. “Some studies conclude that such communication improves the quality of the work environment, patient safety, and care without increasing bedside interruptions. Others, however, note a significant increase in interruptions and disruption of workflow because of the lowered barrier to instant communication,” Halamka notes.
He cites a study at the hospital, published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine earlier this year, showing that physicians using iPads in the emergency department spent 39 fewer minutes at computer workstations per 8-hour shift than those who did not carry wireless tablets. “Presumably this time was spent performing their information-related tasks (order entry, results viewing and clinical documentation) at the bedside,” Halamka says. Keep reading>>