Mobile is making headway in bolstering the advanced technology that aids the care continuum for both doctors and patients in the healthcare industry—and the electronic health records (EHR) space is no exception. Smartphones and tablets are on their way to becoming staples in the healthcare ecosystem, allowing patients and their providers easy access to the tools and information systems that streamline their roles, enable information exchange, and improve care delivery.
To keep up with this shift in tech, many EHR providers are investing in their mobile capabilities, improving interfaces, and offering Internet-free access to the data and tools that patients and physicians rely on.
The gaps filled by mobile
Unfortunately, electronic health record systems carry with them a reputation of further complicating the jobs of healthcare professionals. Primary care physicians are challenged with balancing face-to-face and non-face-to-face care with administrative work and data entry, in addition to making phone calls, addressing patient portal needs, and completing other time-sensitive tasks. Many of these duties result in less time for physicians to provide meaningful in-person care to their patients.
If inefficient EHRs are introduced to this complicated environment, they will only contribute to the chaos. A recent study by the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association found that primary care physicians spend 5.9 hours of an 11.4-hour day working within EHRs, with almost one half of this time devoted to administrative tasks. Issues of EHR usability must be solved in order to optimize physicians’ roles and fill the gaps in care management and delivery.
To improve EHR use, many suggest sharing EHR tasks, communicating more efficiently, and developing team dynamics—yet these ideas fail to address EHR functionality itself, and specifically, the improvements that can be made to the technology’ interface and user experience. The mobile EHR, however, has begun to address these problems.
The American Medical Association (AMA) considers facilitating digital and mobile patient engagement a top EHR usability priority, stating that whatever the intent, “interoperability between a patient’s mobile technology and the EHR will be an asset.” Because the AMA predicts that digital and mobile patient engagement will play an important role in the use of new payment and care delivery models, it advises modern EHR vendors to consider the advantages of interoperability when designing new products.
But offering mobile EHR technology goes beyond vendors’ needs to keep up with new standards of interoperability. It shows users that a vendor prioritizes issues of communication and wants to contribute to a more streamlined healthcare ecosystem. A customizable, easy-to-use mobile interface can both improve common EHR efficiency issues and open the door to the meaningful use of EHR systems. The gaps that mobile fills include:
- Accessibility: Offline data entry and information systems enable fast and informed decisions and increased mobility.
- Communication: Enhanced coordination between care providers and facilities, as well as physicians and patients, is possible through mobile health record transfers, voice calls, texting, emails, video conferences, and more.
- Efficiency: Mobile improves the quality of patient documentation and contributes to a reduction in data entry and retrieval times.
- Secure Delivery: Mobile maintains a high level of data security and can help reveal opportunities for enhanced care delivery or integration of new service lines into mHealth apps and EHRs.
- Documentation: Documents are accurate and easily updated through mobile EHRs, which increases the timeliness of data, reduces human error, and aids in data consolidation.
Advancements in the mobile EHR
According to Dr. Saroj Misra, a member of the Physicians Practice editorial board, the EHR industry is successfully pushing back on some of the major concerns that initially prevented largescale mobile adoption: device size and battery life, mobile-suited EHR interfaces, and data security. Today’s devices come equipped with batteries that last longer and devices now offer screens with larger surface areas that enable easy use. EHRs can also follow established security standards to exhibit secure environments for users and their data.
But are these improvements helping to garner more support for mobile? Data shows that consumers are eager to make use of mobile technology as a more convenient and efficient way to access patient records. In fact, the 2016 Physicians Practice report quoted by Dr. Misra found that 78% of surveyed physicians used mobile-accessible EHRs and more than 85% of physicians and practices used mobile devices at work. Because typical EHRs can be difficult to use, especially for those who require mobility throughout the day, a mobile EHR is the preferred method of data access and data entry.
Mobile and meaningful use
Now that EHR providers are investing more in the development of their mobile offering, it’s becoming increasingly clear that mobile technology creates a real impact on the meaningful use and overall adoption of EHR systems themselves. Many of the issues that dissatisfied EHR users cite as preventing meaningful use can be addressed or resolved through mobile technology.
Through the many opportunities that mobile EHRs present in accessibility, communication, efficiency, security, and documentation, mobile health offers more chances for practices to exhibit meaningful use. This instills and enables a data-driven culture in organizations and allows facilities to gain meaningful use incentives that contribute to their evolution—both of which are vital pieces of the value-based care puzzle.
Top EHR innovators are supporting a value-based environment, which discards the volume-based methodology and instead charges practices with demonstrating value through savings and improved care outcomes. This renewed focus is in line with the industry’s common patient-centric goals and also encourages EHR vendors to find more ways of benefitting end users through their products.
As healthcare providers continue to make the shift toward integrating technology into their organization and subsequent care continuum, the need for proven efficiencies and best practices as demonstrated by mobile is imminent. Healthcare organizations, including those that specialize in areas such as behavioral health, don’t have extra time or money to pour into EHR technology that won’t successfully drive adoption and meaningful use. Looking at current trends in healthcare and using proven data points as a guide, it’s clear that mobile technology will play a pivotal role in the increased adoption of EHR technology.
View the infographic below for a bite-sized overview of how mobile EHR platforms are enabling meaningful use and contributing to the healthcare industry’s movement toward value-based care.