Providers' mobile device choices indicative of job duties

There are some key ways to determine which mobile device--smartphone, tablet or push-to-talk cell phone--is best for your staff, according to consultants with Mountain View, Calif.-based consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. The group lays out its findings in a new white paper, "Mobile Devices and Healthcare: What's New, What Fits, and How Do You Decide?".

There's not much new in the report about the technologies themselves. What's interesting, though, is the paper's categorization of mobile devices' primary utility for healthcare. Here are a few examples:

Smartphones are great for highly mobile, connected staff that need a professional tool for their own use. Ostensibly, that generally means nurses and doctors. The small screen size and limited processing power mean it's not a great fit for sharing data with colleagues or patients, but make it a top-notch tool for quick-reference, searching and simple data viewing.

A rapidly expanding app universe and generally intuitive user interfaces make smartphones convenient and robust for clinicians, the report finds. The fastest-growing area of healthcare apps are diagnostic tools.

Embedded GPS locators also make smartphones a good choice for home health and other healthcare departments that track worker productivity. And text, email and other connectivity makes them a top tool for administrative communication.

Tablets work best as data viewers, but that may be changing. Larger screen sizes make tablets the better choice for clinicians who share images, review large amount of data on-screen, or who want telehealth/video-conference capability, the report finds. Smartphones generally are too small for these functions.

One emerging function that may push tablets ahead of other devices, though, is biometric security, according to the report. "Tablets are large enough for easy addition of a biometric reader," the authors write, "which could single-handedly trump the need for other security protocols--thereby saving valuable clinician time and effort."

Tablets may have problems in the hospital environment, however, because they generally are not water-resistant, F&S consultants note.

Push-to-talk capability still has a place in healthcare, particularly in the ER and hospital facilities departments. It's limited because it communicates only voice, rather than data, but can be valuable for emergency response staff who work largely in the field, and for hospital security, patient transport and facilities workers who need to stay in touch, the authors write.

To learn more:
- read the Frost & Sullivan white paper (reg. required)
- get a summary from Frost & Sullivan's press release

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