3 mobile technologies to aid care transitions

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt of an article from FierceMobileHealthcare's newest eBook, Technology to Enable Care Transitions. Click here to download your free copy today.

Mobile healthcare technology has grown by leaps and bounds--and devices, technologies and applications are becoming ever more sophisticated and targeted to specific care goals, whether it's improving patient flow, educating and engaging patients or preventing readmissions.

The following technologies all address care transitions in different ways. But all have one thing in common: They have the potential to make patients feel more connected to their care and clinicians more connected to their patients, especially during care transitions.

1. Mobile-location based services

From simple wayfinding to more complex patient flow applications, GPS and other mobile-location devices and services are keeping tabs on patients at every point of care. At any given time, hospital staff can see where a patient is in the hospital, avoiding duplicate tests or sending someone to the wrong room.

Using patient-flow software resulted in dramatically reduced length-of-stay and significant cost savings for South Carolina's Beaufort Memorial Hospital in a six-week trial. 

The trial got the hospital thinking about patient flow differently, says Ed Ricks, Beaufort's CIO. Information about the patient, where they are in the hospital, their insurance coverage and their length of stay is available in real-time, all the time. It improves logistics for both staff and patients.

The new workflow process also allowed Ricks to identify some key performance indicators the hospital can now use to set goals in other areas. The data generated from the software will also allow for some big data insights to improve the hospital's efficiency.

Ricks says some staff did react negatively to the project, threatening to quit or saying they just wouldn't do it. "Once they embraced [the software] as an organization, it got better. Some are still uncomfortable--six weeks is a short time--but people started to see the results."

2. Mobile medical devices

Medical devices--such as infusion pumps and ultrasound devices--are getting smaller and going wireless. It gives a whole new meaning to mobile healthcare when providers can bring care to patients in their home or community rather than requiring patients to repeatedly return to more expensive settings, such as the ED or even their doctor's office.

St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital in New York, for example, uses care transition teams that go out into the community armed with a mobile EKG device that attaches to a smartphone. We save thousands of dollars and potential readmission by using that particular methodology," Cletis Earle, vice president and chief information officer of St. Luke's, told FierceHealthIT.

Using mobile, connected devices at home, patients can check their own blood pressure and send the information to their care provider in real-time or near real-time, Steven Steinhubl, M.D. (pictured), director of digital medicine at the Scripps Translational Science Institute and a clinical cardiologist at Scripps Health, told FierceHealthIT. "Do they really need to come in every three months just to see how they're doing? Honestly, they may be feeling fine in three months but not feeling well at one month, but not bad enough to do a walk-in appointment."

3. Patient portals on-the-go

Patient portals have gone mainstream, but mobile access to them has not. Those organizations that do offer a mobile-friendly version are reaping the benefits. More points of access means more patients use the technology, which can go a long way in patient engagement, keeping patients aware of and engaged in their health data.

David Levin, M.D., CMIO of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, makes the connection between easy access to a patient portal and safety along the continuum of care. "We're actually finding patients help us fill in gaps in the record and find errors in the record," he told FierceHealthIT. "And I know that makes some people queasy. But we think this is a boon for patient safety. The position I take is the error is already there. This is about all of us working together to correct it."

Patient access to data can also prevent dropped handoffs, "a terrible and widespread" problem in healthcare, he added. And it can help drive the planning of care--stroke patients, for example, self-report report information about their functions and signs of depression, for example. "We've demonstrated that not only can we collect this [data] and that it's accurate but we can change treatments based on it," Levin said.

>> Read the rest of this article and others--download the free FierceMobileHealthcare eBook, Technology to Enable Care Transitions here.