It's time to tech-mobilize the hardest working staff in healthcare

Anyone who has spent time in a hospital, either as a patient or as a caregiver, knows the heart and soul of a hospital is the nursing staff, from the RNs overseeing the unit to the nursing students learning the ropes.

So it came as a surprise, and an even bigger disappointment to me, to learn nurses aren't at the top of the list when it comes to deploying mobile healthcare tools. As FierceMobileHealthcare reported last week, nurses may actually be on the end of the list. That's a scenario that has to change--and quickly.

Why? One reason is that nurses are typically the first wave of contact for patients upon admittance and the last as a patient leaves a medical facility. Nurses are the bloodline when it comes to tracking patient's issues, monitoring treatment and keeping a vigilant watch on recovery. They're the ones collecting most of the data, taking vital signs and responding to unexpected crisis. Nurses dispense medicine and communicate with the medical team.

A new survey reveals the healthcare industry is lagging behind retail and business services in mobile strategy and application development, with 36 percent having no strategy and 57 percent lacking a mobile app. The industry lag is due to several issues, from regulatory to data security worries.

But those may not be the only reasons nurses aren't getting mobile tools to do their jobs better, to make their jobs easier and to help provide better healthcare services.

The real answer may just be money, according to Gregg Malkary, founder and managing director of the Spyglass Consulting Group, which recently released a report titled "Healthcare Without Bounds: Point of Care Communications for Nursing 2014." Outfitting a hospital's largest workforce with mobile apps and devices and requisite training isn't a cheap or quick effort.

But the cost of not providing nurses with mHealthcare tools isn't a viable option any longer.

"The question isn't 'can we afford it?' but 'can we afford not to do it?' It's imperative to invest in current technology," he told FierceMobileHealthcare.

He's exactly right. The benefits and return-on-investment for the patient, hospital staff and the healthcare provider are huge and range from quicker hospital stays (less costs for patients and payers to greater operating efficiencies (eliminating paperwork and data entry tasks) to culling big savings on treatment follow-up and re-admittance costs.

Some hospitals are 'getting it' and implementing early tools and technologies in some specialized segments, but more needs to be done.

"It's time to provide a platform of collaborative care that provides nurses with the ability to communicate, receive alerts regarding patient status and access data on patient treatment. It's time to get everyone on the same page," Malkary says.

Indeed, it's time to make all of that happen and it's time to start with the nursing workforce. - Judy (@JudyMottl and@FierceHealthIT)