Smart Devices and the Healthcare Revolution

Oxygen monitors. Smart beds. Wearable glucometers. Electronic pill dispensers with notifications. Healthcare providers face growing pressure to keep up with the latest technologies, for good reason. The use of mobile technology and connected devices in healthcare reduces time spent on routine tasks, reduces errors and offers higher quality care.

 

Bring Technology to the Patient, Rather Than the Other Way Around

Wearable devices and home health-monitoring devices are common now, transmitting vital data over a wireless connection from a patient’s home to a physician. Elderly and mobility-impaired patients save a trip to the clinic for routine checks, and avoid unsterilized waiting rooms that could compromise their health.

With point-of-care testing, providers can also visit patients at their homes to perform a variety of tests such as EKGs and ultrasounds. Data is directly transmitted to a technician for viewing and editing, and results are seamlessly shared with a physician.

Connected devices are also improving services delivered in patient rooms. For example, electronic beds are equipped with monitoring devices that track vital signs, weight and the number of times a patient rolls over, which all allow for remote monitoring at the nurse’s station. This means nurses and physicians can track activity of patients that need round-the-clock care and they can immediately respond to changes in a patient’s vitals.

 

Track Assets and Resources More Efficiently

Another benefit of mobile devices in healthcare is the capability to more efficiently track critical equipment. Real-time locating systems (RTLS) use WiFi tags (small WiFi devices with a few control buttons) and active radio frequency identification (RFID) to keep tabs on infusion pumps, ventilators and even wheelchairs. By tracking equipment electronically, nurses know which equipment is available and where to locate it.

RTLS can also greatly improve patient flow in busy emergency departments to track bed use. Beds with WiFi tags send their locations to nearby WiFi access points, which transfer the information to a RTLS. A real-time map shows the location and status of each bed, such as “waiting to be seen by MD” or “ready for discharge.”

 

Make Better Decisions and Improve Accuracy

Mobile devices used by doctors and pharmacists are also improving the quality of healthcare for patients.

An article published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Journal found that the use of medical apps, such as drug references and medical calculators, on mobile devices help clinicians make better decisions regarding diagnoses and treatment plans, compared to using only paper resources.

One study that was cited in the article found that the use of mobile devices specifically “improved drug knowledge and understanding” when prescribing drugs for patients. And documentation is more accurate and complete when mobile devices are used in patient care.

But Is It Secure?

Security is a large concern when it comes to healthcare information being stolen or shared without permission. Mobile and wireless technology do come with security concerns.

However, the U.S. government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure that any entity that stores or transmits protected healthcare information (PHI) does so in a highly secure manner. To protect data transmission, this act includes securing access with firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention, user authentication and strong encryption implementation. All of these requirements mean that every healthcare provider must make security a high priority, and commit to ongoing monitoring and audits to maintain a secure environment for patients and customers.

Connected devices will continue to play a significant role in improving the delivery of healthcare and the quick exchange of information, allowing healthcare professionals to adopt new lifesaving technologies and provide higher quality care.

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