The next round of EHR meaningful use will bring about increased patient engagement. In such an environment, mobile technology -- one aspect of the modern healthcare practice -- has the potential to contribute to EHR adoption.
While not fully baked, the next round of meaningful use expands on Stage 1 by focusing on a greater level of engagement and communication with patients. In general, the Stage 2 Proposed Rule increases flexibility and reduces burden on providers and vendors; emphasizes patient engagement, as well as access to information and health information exchange; and promotes greater usability and encryption requirements.
With the main focus on the patient, the need for tools that support both clinical workflow and patient communication via the EHR will likely play a more critical role in the near future, and mobility serves as an ideal vehicle to support this need. Today, many apps have been released with functionality intended for both provider and patient audiences (e.g., diabetes management apps, patient portals, etc.).
A recent study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center reinforces the role mobile can play in a patient-centric healthcare model. This study found that a majority of patients wanted to view their own imaging results as soon as possible, even if the medical terminology was not completely clear and the doctor couldn’t discuss the results with them immediately. This study is indicative of the growing need for two-way EHR systems and points to the role mobile technology can play as physicians look to cater to patient requests for real-time results, diagnosis and treatment plans.
Back to the main question at hand – can mobility really help with MU and EHR adoption? Definitely. In healthcare delivery, user-friendly mobile technology can help lower costs and improve care – two things which are top-of-mind in the medical community. With mobile adoption, deployment costs go down and there is greater access to time-sensitive information and collaboration tools. Furthermore, mobile deployments can assist in minimizing workflow changes and offer real-time tools at the point of care, which enables better data collection and information delivery. A few other requirements that may be supported by mobile apps include e-prescribing, drug/allergy interactions, medication lists, patient messaging and reminders – and a number of other meaningful use objectives.
Despite these benefits, it's been argued that mobile devices have a limited scope and value in the healthcare setting, being relegated to function solely as tools for viewing information and consuming data. Many, including myself, disagree with that argument and strongly believe mobile devices are poised for larger tasks like data creation and clinical documentation when mobile clinicians are equipped with the appropriate tools to get the job done. This includes having access to well-designed apps that actually address the user's specific needs and other functional capabilities, such as access to speech-enabled EHRs, which significantly reduces the burden associated with documentation on these types of devices.
When all said and done, the government will ultimately determine how aggressive future stages of meaningful use will be and the specifics surrounding the objectives and measures. Mobile technology in healthcare and the convenience of anytime, anywhere access, coupled with the necessary software and hardware capabilities, will support further adoption of mobile EHR platforms. As the medical community progresses in its transition into a new era of patient-focused care, mobile is sure to play a part in meeting related regulatory requirements.