The Future of Mobility and Cloud in Healthcare
By Joe Petro
For some time now, we’ve been hearing concerns voiced by physicians about how complicated their lives have become due to the mountainous documentation requirements. Among the most difficult is capturing the details a patient shares during a consultation and trying to fit that information into the structured template found in today’s EHRs.
How can we expect a patient’s story to be impactful when all its context and richness is lost to making sure we click and check the right boxes? This is a byproduct of all the initiatives coming out of the federal government. The EHRs are left with no choice but to force the structured capture of clinical documentation.
At the same time that we see these changing requirements, we’re also seeing a change in the technology used by physicians. Physicians are becoming increasingly more mobile and technologies can improve the physician experience and allow them to capture the patient story across the multitude of devices they currently use throughout the day. Executed properly, this ultimately offers physicians a way to streamline this documentation burden as certain technologies, such as speech recognition and language understanding, let them capture the required documentation in a more natural way.
In parallel, we are seeing an emergence of a cottage industry of mHealth app vendors looking to bring innovative technologies to the healthcare workflow. We have reached a tipping point where technical tools make it easier to leverage a large number of advanced capabilities. This makes it easier for the entire industry to create solutions and applications that are immediately impactful. This is a unique time and place in our technological evolution in the healthcare space.
Cloud is an example of a set of technologies that makes things easier and has the potential to deliver high impact. The cloud makes it possible for technologies to meet physicians wherever they are, on any device, at any time. For example, physicians can enter data into their mobile devices/apps any time, anywhere, and on the go. The cloud will be there to broadcast this information far and wide to EHRs or other apps and tools in a more meaningful way no matter where it originated. Thanks to cloud enablement, mHealth apps and other innovations become more useful to the physicians who want to be mobile.
Mobile and cloud innovations are impacting patients as well. Mobile applications and wearable devices are allowing patients to manage their own health, capture their own health data, and turn this data into actionable insights. Our lives and our health are on the brink of being substantially instrumented. We are now tracking sleep and eating patterns and mobile devices are starting to capture valuable information from blood pressure to heart rate to weight and more.
This technology can help patients comply with the treatment plans that physicians prescribe by allowing them to report progress or other important details in real time. The cloud is connecting patients to their own personal health experience, enabling them with the tools they need to better look after and manage their own health. It also connects patients to their healthcare providers and institutions before they actually need to receive care, potentially keeping them out the hospital in the first place. This evolution is taking place today.
We’re transitioning to a phase where we can truly call this “healthcare” instead of “sick care,” a phase where we are shifting to managing our health proactively instead of just managing a sickness after it has already happened. With all this data available via the cloud, EHRs and all health-oriented applications will evolve, making it easier for physicians to leverage the technology to increase productivity and improve quality of care. The value that the EHRs are promising to deliver will be delivered partly through this mechanism.
As we continue down this path, we move towards a setting that seems as if it’s almost from a futuristic movie where everything in healthcare is mobile, connected, and intelligent. We’re going to see patients surrounded by enabling technology in such a way that intelligent services in the cloud will help their mobile devices keep track of important information that can then be used during visits with their physicians or, more importantly, prior to visits.
Physicians will be primed for the visit with everything they need on a device, reducing the time patients spend having to tell the same thing to three different people upon entering a health system. Present-day documentation requirement problems will eventually fade into the background as technology advances and interacting with these systems become more human-like and natural. Physicians will be able to focus fully on what got them into medicine in the first place: caring for their patients.
Joe Petro is senior vice president of healthcare research and development of Nuance of Burlington, MA.