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Health IT

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IT plays a major role in today's health care environment...

"The transformation of medical care with mobile apps has become so ubiquitous that hospitals are discarding conventional devices such as overhead paging, pagers and telephones with smartphones.

USC-KECK  nurses will no longer use standard hospital communications gear. In an effort to simplify and improve communications, the academic medical center is rolling out an initiative placing specialized adapted iPhones in the hands of each nurse.

Keck’s IT leaders  have ordered 300 “specialty” iPhones for  use by the nursing staff. “The idea is to give them one device to do everything,”KECK chose to go with the iPhones when the firm installing its EMR said that they could link it with the smartphones. (The EMR is in the process of being rolled out, the paper reports.)

When the devices are completely functional, nurses will be able to receive secure messages from patients and other nurses, as well as emergency alerts, the article notes. The devices, which come with enhanced batteries and a tough casing, will also be able to show when a specific nurse is available. Nurses are not going to be given their own phones, but instead, will pick up a phone at the start of their shift, entering their user ID and password to activate the device. 

At the end of their shift, they’ll be asked to return the phones to a charging station. The phones they obtain will be assigned by work shift with individual logins for users. The devices will be ‘hardened’ to decrease the likelihood of physical damage.

One way in which the phones are unique is that they won’t have cellular capabilities. The modified iPhones will function only on the Keck campus, with calls made over the facility’s secure Internet infrastructure. This feature addresses HIPAA concerns for privacy and confidentiality.

As we’ve previously reported, few smartphones are secure enough to meet even half of Meaningful Use or HIPAA requirements, according to ONCHIT. So it makes sense to run voice communications through a hospital-controlled voice-grade Internet network if you have the option (which Keck obviously did). But to date few hospitals (that I know of) have taken the plunge.

BYOD’S may be a thing of the past (bring your own device). These have caused concerned about reliability, and security, also few hospital IT departments support these devices. These new devices invade the conventional hospital communications devices, such as Vocera. Incremental changes such as this may announce disruptive innovation and also influence market share for vendors.

Despite this early trend you don’t hear about a stampede of hospital IT departments rushing to establish support policies and deploy enterprise-class mobile management tools. I must say, I’m not sure what they’re waiting for.

Hospitals and medical facilities have a lot to gain by integrating mobile into their businesses. As it has done with other industries, a properly implemented mobile program can help medical facilities by increasing efficiency, accuracy, and consistency of care." Source: RNs and LVNs What's in Your Pocket? Digital Health Space, July 29, 2013.

So, if IT facilitates the delivery of health care why is it taking so long for the medical community to embrace it?

It appears that the main issues that need to be overcome are data security, protection of privacy and gaining the confidence of patients and doctors. Then again, we live in a digital world and we cannot hold back progress indefinitely. 


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