August 2, 2011

To iPad or not to iPad

To iPad or not to iPad, that is the question.

I’ve been a pretty big proponent of mobile devices for many years now. I jumped into e-mail on a phone early on. I pushed the limits of the early laptops to disconnect from my desk as often as possible. Now with tablets, I have been one of the many saying “tablets everywhere!” Recently I spent nearly a month sitting everyday in a hospital going between the waiting room and speaking with the doctors in ICU around my mother in-law’s health scare. In addition to the many hours of time freed up to ponder the universe it put me in a perfect position to consider the impact of mobility in healthcare from a patients perspective.

Would a tablet or other mobile device help or hurt the care my mother in-law was receiving?

Without going into too much detail, the biggest issue in my mother in-law’s case was getting the right information into the attending medical professionals hands. At all times the chart was available no more than 5 feet away at the computer in the hallway of the ICU. However, the second the doctor stepped out of the room he or she would be pulled into something else, so we never wanted them to leave the room. Unfortunately this also meant that we would be explaining the situation to each new doctor or nurse at shift change and whenever a specialist arrived. Given the rarity of what she was dealing with there simply wasn’t any standard protocol to follow.

That’s all well and good, but how does a tablet really help here? Healthcare has a large push industry wide around LEAN improvement. One of the tenants of this is spending more time with the patient and less time dealing with non-patient business. In my family member’s case, this would mean finding a way to spend more quality time in the room and less time pulling up information. In all those hours of patiently waiting for a resolution, I decided I desperately wanted this hospital to embark on a mobility solution for their care givers. I imagined the doctor of the day being able to simply pull up my mother in-law’s chart while we were in the room and make notes regarding her condition. Two hours later when the specialist or the next shift came on, he or she would instantly have all of this information at their fingertips as well. No more sitting at a computer to start the shift and hoping to remember the details about each patient. Less confusion, less stress on the family trying to educate each doctor all the time, and most importantly more time in the room with the patient where doctors need to be.

The concept of mobility in the hospital setting isn’t anything new or earth shattering anymore. I have been a proponent of it for years to be truthful. But this was the first time that I saw up close and personal the impact it can really have in a life or death situation. Hospitals can increase the time doctors are spending with patients, increase the ability of those doctors to have accurate information at their fingertips, decrease the chances for misdiagnosis, increase the number of patients a doctor can see in a given day, increase patient satisfaction, and most importantly increase the quality of care patients receive.

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