Millennials Shine Light on a Mobile Future for Clinical Care

Jonathan Draper ,  Director of Product Management, Healthcare at Calgary Scientific Inc

Studies of mobile devices and physicians show a continued growth of ownership and an increasing use at work. A 2015 study showed that 98 percent of physicians own a Smartphone and 92 percent of them reported that they are useful for work. Exactly how they use their devices while at work, however, differs significantly by generation. While every physician carries their Smartphone with them today, the younger they are the more likely they’ll be pulling them out in clinical settings.

In 2015, there were three times as many Smartphones sold than there were babies born every day. With a statistic like that, it’s no wonder that mobile technology is redefining all sectors of 21st century society, including healthcare. Today, mobile access to patient information, diagnostic tools and provider-to-provider communication is transforming care delivery at hospitals.

In clinical care settings, mobile devices allow physicians to move their patient information with them as they see patients and confer with colleagues. With mobile access to electronic health records (EHRs) and patient images, providers can skip side trips to computer clusters or offices and concentrate on their time and focus on patients instead. Mobile devices’ always-on connectivity also make physicians more efficient by eliminating time spent logging in and out of computers and workstations to view patient records and images.

Despite these benefits of greater efficiency and fast information access, however, the use of mobile devices in clinical settings still varies widely among hospitals, and even between hospital departments. Security concerns as well as mobile support for EHRs create significant hurdles for institutional health IT departments.

Still mobility dominates everyday life, both personal and professional, and asking physicians to give up their devices in favour of tethered desktop systems seems counterintuitive. Experts and analysts agree that integrating mobile devices into clinical care settings is the future, but doing so in the context of the millions already invested in health IT infrastructures is complex and challenging.

Health IT departments require clinical tools that are platform and network agnostic, provide patient data protection, offer a high-level of security against network break-ins, and have a low-IT footprint. With these attributes,  an enterprise image viewer that runs on mobile devices, for example, can easily fit into any clinical health IT system without compromising security or requiring customization.

Among millennial generation physicians, those under the age of 35, 92 percent report that they use at least one Smartphone app, such as diagnostics tools and drug and coding references, for clinical purposes. Among doctors aged 35 to 44, the percentage using Smartphones in clinical settings drop about 20 percent and use drops 33 percent among doctors 45 to 59.

This preference among younger physicians to use mobile devices in clinical settings tracks their use of mobile devices during their training and their desire to be more efficient.

“Every day on rounds, you’ve got students giving you the answers before you finish the question,” comments Steven Levine, MD and Professor of Neurology and Emergency Medicine at SUNY Downstate University Hospital of Brooklyn, NY.
“These kids in med school and the young generation of doctors coming out of residence, this is all they've known,” continues Levine. “Using mobile digital devices is their nature and this is how they get information, this is how they communicate socially, this is how they do their homework. It's a whole new generation and I think it's just a matter of time before it becomes the norm.”

"Younger physicians are very tech savvy and are constantly looking for ways to use technology to improve the efficiency of our lives and our practices,” concurs Chris Maroules, a senior resident in radiology at the University Of Texas South-Western School Of Medicine.

These tech savvy doctors need to take care, however, to protect patient data and be sure that the clinical apps they use have the right accreditations for clinical and diagnostic use. According to a recent study 28 percent of physicians store patient data on their mobile devices and 14 percent of that data is unprotected. FDA class II accreditation is critical for ensuring quality care and patient safety when using mobile applications.

Jonathan Draper is the Director of Product Management, Healthcare at Calgary Scientific Inc. He’s passionate about creating technology that enables healthcare providers to offer world-class service that ultimately improves patient care. His interactions with clinical institutions, physicians, and other business professionals have provided him with the acumen and sagacity to apply novel concepts towards building innovative healthcare products and devices.