Docs slam bosses for failing to support mHealth

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

That BYOD policy at your hospital might just be a poorly constructed paper tiger, according to a recent survey of physicians.

Almost every doctor in the United States now owns a smartphone (the rest plan on retiring this year), and they're more than happy to use it at work. But a report from Spyglass Consulting indicates most of them aren't getting the support they need from management.

The study, "Point of Care Communications for Physicians 2014," finds that more than 70 percent of physicians surveyed said their employers aren't investing enough in mobile communication and computing. Those doctors, the study says, have issues with limited planned investments, EHRs that don't integrate well with mobile devices, and limited on-site support for mobile users.

"Physician smartphone adoption is nearly universal, with 96 percent of physicians interviewed using smartphones as their primary device to support clinical communications," Spyglass Managing Director Gregg Malkary said in a press release. "Smartphones are preferred because they are easier to use and provide more enhanced functionality than outdated communication options provided by hospital IT including pagers, overhead paging systems, landline phones and fax machines."

According to the survey, a full 83 percent of doctors say their EHR platforms don't allow for easy clinical communications via mobile devices – if they even allow something like secure text messaging. That lack of interoperability, the doctors said, makes it difficult to find important clinical data.

In addition, a majority of the physicians surveyed said their ability to provide collaborative, team-based care is hindered by administrations that don't supply the necessary financial and clinical support. In other words, a system that isn't allowing its staff to coordinate care in real time and on mobile devices is doing a disservice to its patients and may even by harming their health.

"Efficient communications and collaboration between physicians, specialists, nurses and care team members is critical to enhance patient safety and support the coordination and delivery of patient care across health settings," Malkary said in the press release.

He cited two recent reports as further proof: A 2013 Joint Commission study that indicated more than 70 percent of treatment delays and sentinel events was caused by communication breakdowns, and a July 2014 Ponemon Institute study that found that antiquated communications networks like paging systems cost the average U.S. hospital some $1.75 million annually.

Among the hospitals keeping tabs on its communications capabilities is Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Steven Davidson, the hospital's former CMIO, said physician comments were very telling on the state of mHealth acceptance – as was a quick glance at other hospitals.

"As we were developing our plans for improving communication among clinicians, we discovered that few hospitals were investing in communications-driven workflow support, perhaps because meaningful use and HIPAA are consuming all their resources," he said in the Spyglass press release. "Still, it seems many IT leaders hope the EHR – a tool poorly suited to the task – will suffice."

"In reality," Davidson concluded, "overwhelmed nurses and doctors struggle (to accomplish) necessary communication through the EHR, instead implementing workarounds on their own devices."