Providers find unexpected benefits of tablets for hospitalized patients

Photo credit: Screenshot courtesy of BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making

A mobile hospital-based portal developed by Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago provides benefits to hospitalized patients and care providers, but full optimization of the tool will require solving several challenges and deeper insight on best practices in data sharing.

The developers, according to research published in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, surveyed 18 patients and 21 providers using the application, finding that the former group embraced gaining deeper insight on medical issues, medication information and expressed a desire for access to lab results, while the latter group liked the ability to share data. However, providers also expressed worry about sensitive info being shared with patients without the appropriate clinician.

The study also delivered some unexpected results; for instance, the researchers found that patients enjoyed using the tablet tool as an entertainment source.

“Perhaps the most interesting finding was that patients enjoyed using other applications, especially the games, as a positive distraction,” research lead Kevin O’Leary, chief of hospital medicine in the department of medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, told FierceMobileHealthcare. "Some patients commented that the games helped them get their mind off of their symptoms."

Several patients also tapped the portal, via Apple iPads, for note taking and listing out questions for providers, and identified uses beyond the initial study focus.

“Interestingly, patients seemed to understand that their providers were very busy and may not be able to see the message right away,” O’Leary said.

Still, patient use was highly variable, the authors noted. A big concern from providers was the potential impact on workflow if apps were tweaked to offer real-time communication between patients and providers, and how and if patients would potentially have access to test and lab results.