Mobile Technology
by Paul O’Toole

In today’s fast-paced world, most adults—and even most children—own smartphones or other devices that keep everyone connected, regardless of their locations. If this mobile-centered technology gains acceptance in health care, will it have any effect on how we communicate with patients and work to improve outcomes in general? According to Pew Research Center’s Health Fact Sheet, 52 percent of smartphone users research medical or health-related information on their devices. Perhaps surprisingly, 80 percent of physicians use medical apps on their smartphones, according to the 2013–2017 Mobile Health Market Report by Research2Guidance. Of the 80 percent of physicians using smartphones, 72 percent access drug information such as dosage calculators, side effects, interactions, etc.; another 63 percent access medical research from their tablets and 44 percent communicate with nurses and other staff from their smartphones. Obviously physicians are comfortable using mobile devices, but is this technology really feasible for patient care? Recent data from HIMSS suggests that it may well be, and health care providers are trying to facilitate a transition. In its 2015 mobile technology survey, HIMSS reported that health care providers are “widely beginning to deploy mobile technologies with the aim of engaging patients within their organizations.” In fact, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said they “maintain mobile devices to engage patients at their organizations.” The challenge, according to those surveyed, is engagement. Although the survey indicates that 73 percent of respondents use app-enabled portals, only half of those considered these portals to be an effective way to engage patients. Therefore, it seems clear that we aren’t yet utilizing mobile technology in the patient setting to its fullest potential. As we push toward that goal, it is also imperative that providers protect their data to remain compliant. In the meantime, here are three ways mobile technology can help you now. 1 Mobile delivery: Is your HME business using mobile technology in your delivery management processes? If your business relies on paper delivery tickets and manual processes, you could be spending too much time on deliveries and be at risk for delays and late deliveries of crucial supplies and equipment. With mobile delivery technology, you can quickly communicate with office staff and drivers in the field with updates on new orders, rush orders and daily deliveries by having your system data available at your fingertips. Paper delivery tickets also have the potential to get lost, and they take time to manually deliver to your billing department. Using barcode scanning and electronic signing through a smartphone or tablet, you can speed up deliveries and enable staff to bill for services quicker with real-time signature confirmation instead of waiting for drivers to return. Another time-saving tool is integrating your daily deliveries with mapping tools so drivers can identify the shortest routes. 2 Data security: Many providers may be cautious about using mobile technology due to data security, which is a valid concern. However, with smart mobile technology, there are numerous security measures that can ensure data is protected and only accessible to select team members. Customized security privileges are a great way to control access to software data in a mobile setting according to staff members’ specific job duties. Limiting this control allows users to only edit and view the data that pertains to their jobs so that human error is reduced and data integrity is not compromised. In order to remain HIPAA-compliant, it is also crucial to automatically log out inactive mobile devices. Many smart devices also have biometric fingerprint readers that only allow the person who owns the phone to access the data; this should also be used as another safety measure to ensure appropriate access. Mobile technology tracking tools also help managers, directors and the c-level suite analyze what changes have been made in the mobile version compared to your core application. Monitoring discrepancies can help spot issues and identify who made the changes so that errors are quickly resolved. 3 Exploring telehealth through mobile technology: Involving technology with patient care is where we see a lot of opportunity for growth in the HME market, as well as the rest of the health care industry. Providing patients access to their records, lab tests and results and deliveries through a patient portal are great ways to involve them in treatment. With mobile delivery tools, patients can be notified when their supplies ship and receive carrier and tracking information, so they know when to expect deliveries. Remote patient monitoring is another effective way to track patient adherence, particularly in rural areas and other regions that may have limited access to health care facilities. With the increasing acceptance and adoption of telehealth, it will be interesting to see how CMS regulates this technology and if mobile technology will ever replace physician’s signatures or other supporting information that is currently being managed on paper. It’s no secret that today’s health care providers, particularly HME providers, have to search for ways to economize and streamline operations so that costs are reduced and revenue is maximized. Using mobile technology is a great way to eliminate manual processes that can slow down productivity and output. Giving staff more flexibility to do their jobs and access to patient information in remote locations can improve clinical follow-up by adding documentation and other notes directly in the system without an extensive paper trail. Keep your HME business at the forefront of technology, and see how much productivity increases.