Hospital-issued tablets target patient education, satisfaction

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital is joining the growing list of health systems nationwide arming patients with tablets to help improve their hospital stay. And it's not just the patients who are seeing the benefits.

While designed to help patients better understand why they're in the hospital, the program – featuring a "Patient Itinerary" app developed by the hospital's own IT department – improves workflows for the doctors and nurses, contributes to better communications between patients and caregivers and even boosts morale.

"It's helped everyone to look beyond the illness and the tests," Mt. Sinai chief nursing officer Carol Porter told mHealth News.

The iPad app was drawn up by Mt. Sinai's Inpatient Care Model Redesign Team, a committee of clinical and IT executives charged with finding new methods to "get patients more engaged in their care," said Porter. Armed with survey results from both patients and caregivers, the team designed an app that provides access to patient education material customized for each part of the hospital, enabling patients to learn more about their specific health issue, the treatments they're undergoing and when and how often they'll be getting those treatments, procedures and tests. Other apps offer access to entertainment and social media, as well as real-time feedback.

The HIPAA-compliant app was designed to link in with Mt. Sinai's Epic electronic health record, said Michael DeCarlo, of the hospital's IT department. The idea was to address a critical gap in patient understanding – the gulf between what the patient is told and what the patient understands. By providing people with access to that information, patients learn at an easier pace and be better prepared to ask questions and understand answers.

Both Porter and DeCarlo said the process taught caregivers that they need to look at their workflows as well. For instance, if a patient learned via the Patient Itinerary app that he or she was due for a certain exam at a certain time, those responsible for administering that exam had better be ready at that time. If clinicians were failing to perform those tasks in good time, the hospital would take a hit in patient satisfaction.

"It really forced everyone to take a hard look at our data," DeCarlo said.

Once the app was created, Mt. Sinai turned to a New York-based tech company called PadInMotion to populate it on 100 tablets. The program is now in the pilot phase, with the tablets distributed to app 100 Mt. Sinai patients without cost.

“The ultimate goal with our Patient Itinerary app is to provide a real-time snapshot of clinical care information to make the hospital stay less stressful – and to make our patients better informed – all toward ensuring a good health outcome for those in our care,” said Mt. Sinai CIO Kumar Chatani in a recent press release. “Our information technology and nursing departments will continue to work together to refine an already successful rollout, and we believe Patient Itinerary will soon become a standard that other hospitals emulate.”

Porter said clinicians like the real-time feedback provided by the tablets, enabling them to answer problems more quickly. And the patients, she said, "really love it – they just want more and more and more," Porter added. "There definitely will be expansions."