Despite an overwhelming real-world presence, mobile still an exception in medicine

When you spend hours every week reading and writing about mobile healthcare--interviewing top minds and innovators--it's hard to fathom a scenario in which these tools are not taking root in the industry ubiquitously.

But after recently spending 17 hours in the emergency room of one of the best hospitals in New York, I quickly realize that mHealth technology is still in a very young stage when it comes to day-to-day healthcare delivery.

Yes, everyone in scrubs had a smartphone in their pocket. The mobile "chart" cart, which is no longer a new innovation, is the prime vehicle for dispensing medication orders, and while an admission bracelet barcode was scanned each time a patient was given some sort of prescription drug, few bar code scanners are in play. Even fewer mobile devices were seen being used to collect data.

No one was whipping out a tablet to share scan results. No scopes were being attached to smartphones to check eyes, ears or throats.

Most staff interaction was face to face, though I did see texting and heard some smartphone conversations in hallways and near the nursing station. There were still some beepers in play, hanging off scrubs, and physician contact information was handed over on a traditional business card.

Even the extensive summary of patient care packet remain crispy white jet laser paper sheets stapled together in the corner.

All this despite the fact I provided an email address at least a dozen times during the admitting and healthcare delivery process.

In fairness to the healthcare provider (as I wasn't there in a professional reporting capacity and was not inclined to conduct any official interviews), I'm not naming the institution. Excellent care was provided. Nursing staffs do remain the heart of an ER, and are overworked and understaffed. Most if not every patient in a room and on a gurney in the hallway had a smartphone or tablet in hand; some had both and some also had e-readers.

Digital devices clearly were present in the ER setting, but not like I was hoping to see.

I had been eager to see a scan image via a tablet, but couldn't even get a digital copy of the discharge instructions emailed to me. While a bit disappointing, though, it wasn't disheartening.

All the potential is there; the tools are everywhere. It's just a matter of education and patience. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)

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