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Hospital Mobile Strategy Still In Flux

Posted on January 8, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The following is a look at how hospitals’ use of communication devices has changed since 2011, and what the patterns are now.  You might be surprised to read some of these data points since in some cases they defy conventional wisdom.

The researchers behind the study, communications tech provider Spok, Inc. surveyed about 300 healthcare professionals this year, and have tracked such issues since 2011. The report captures data on the major transitions in hospital mobile communications that have taken place since then.

For example, the report noted that in 2011, 84% of staffers received job-related alerts on pagers. Sixty-two percent are using wireless in-house phones, 61% desk phones, 77% email on their computers, 44% cell phones and 5% other devices.

Since then, mobile device usage in hospitals has changed significantly. For example, 77% of respondents said that their hospital supports smartphone use. The popularity of some devices has come and gone over time, including tablets and Wi-Fi phones (which are nonetheless used by 63% of facilities).

Perhaps the reason this popularity has risen and fallen is that hospitals are still finding it tricky to support mobile devices. The issues include supporting needed infrastructure for Wi-Fi coverage (45%), managing cellular coverage infrastructure (30%), maintaining data security (31%) and offering IT support for users (about 30%). Only 11% of respondents said they were not facing any of these concerns at present.

When the researchers asked the survey panel which channels were best for sharing clinical information in a hospital, not all cited contemporary mobile devices. Yes, smartphones did get the highest reliability rating, at 3.66 out of five points, but pagers, including encrypted pagers, were in second place with a rating of 3.20. Overhead announcements came in third at 2.91 and EHR apps at 2.39.

The data on hospitals and BYOD policies seemed counterintuitive as well. According to Spok, 88% of facilities supported some form of BYOD in 2014, or in other words, roughly 9 out of 10.  That percentage has fallen drastically, however, BYOD support hitting 59% this year.

Not surprisingly, clinicians are getting the most leeway when it comes to using their own devices on campus. In 2017, 90% of respondents said they allowed their clinicians to bring their own devices with them. Another 69% supported BYOD for administrators, 57% for nurses and 56% for IT staffers. Clearly, hospital leaders aren’t thrilled about supporting mobility unless it keeps clinical staff aligned with the facility.

To control this cacophony of devices, 30% said they were using enterprise mobility management solutions, 40% said they were evaluating such solutions and 30% said they had no plans to do so. Apparently, despite some changes in the devices being used, hospitals still aren’t sure who should have mobile tools, how to support them and what infrastructure they need to keep those devices lit up and useful.

Hospitals Face Security Risks In Expanding Mobile Footprint

Posted on October 3, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new study suggests that hospitals are deeply concerned about their ability to protect patient data and their technology infrastructure from the growing threat of mobile cyberattacks.

The study, by Spyglass Consulting Group, found that 71% of hospitals consider mobile communications to be an increasingly important investment, in part due to the growth of value-based reimbursement and emerging patient- centered care models.

Thirty-eight percent of hospitals surveyed by Spyglass reported having invested in a smartphone-based platform to support these communications, with the deployments averaging 624 devices. Meanwhile, 52% have expanded their deployments beyond clinical messaging support other mobile hospital workers, researchers found.

That being said, 82% of hospitals weren’t sure they could protect these assets, particularly against mobile-focused attacks. Respondents worry that both smartphones and tablets could introduce vulnerabilities into the hospitals network infrastructure through malware, blastware and ransomware attacks. (These concerns are backed up by other Spyglass research, which concludes that 25% of data breaches originate from mobile devices.)

The surveyed hospitals said they were especially concerned about personally-owned mobile devices used by advanced practice nurses and physicians, noting that such devices may lack adequate password protection and may not have security software in place to block attacks.

Also, respondents said, APNs and doctors typically rely on unsecured SMS messaging for clinical communications, which may include protected patient health information. What’s more, respondents noted that these clinicians make heavy use of public Wi-Fi and cellular networks which can be compromised easily, exposing not only their device but also their data and communications to view.

But the hospitals’ fears aren’t limited to clinicians’ personal devices, Spyglass noted. Despite making increased investments in mobile security, hospital respondents said they were also concerned about hospital-owned and managed mobile devices, including those used by nurses, ancillary professionals and nonclinical mobile hospital workers.

“Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the capabilities and vulnerabilities of existing security products, and the strategies and tools used by hospital IT detect potential intrusion,” said Gregg Malkary of Spyglass in a prepared statement.

Still, hospitals have a number of reasons to soldier on and solve these problems. For example, a HIMSS study released in March notes that hospitals feel mobile implementations positively impact their ability to communicate with patients and their ability to deliver a higher standard of care. Not only that, 69% of respondents whose hospitals use mobile-optimized patient portals said that this expanded their capability to send and receive data securely.

The HIMSS study found that 52% of survey respondents used three or more mobile and/or connected health technologies, with 58% mobile-optimized patient portals, 48% apps for patient education and engagement, 37% remote patient monitoring, 34% telehealth, 33% SMS texting, 32% patient-generated health data and 26% concierge telehealth.

In addition, 47% of HIMSS respondents said that their hospitals were looking to expand the number of connected health technologies they used, with another 5% of respondents expecting to become first-time users of at least one of these technologies.

Nurses And PAs Use Digital Resources More Than Docs

Posted on September 5, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Generally speaking, the push toward EMRs is designed to change how doctors use digital resources and structure how they interact with other professionals. As it turns out, though, there may be more enculturation to do. Nurses and advanced practice nurses currently spend a lot more time using digital resources than doctors do, according to a study by market research firm Manhattan Research.

To conduct its study, Manhattan Research reached out to 1,1012 U.S. practicing nurses and physician assistants online during the second quarter of 2012. The researchers found that there were distinct differences in the way doctors and nurses used digital resources.

For example, the research group found that 74 percent of PAs, 67 percent of RNs and 60 percent of APRNs use smartphones at the point of care, as opposed to 40 percent of physicians.

Nurses are also bigger professional users of online resources than doctors. Researchers found that while RNs spend 16 hours online per week on professional activities, APRNs 14 hours and PAs 14 hours, physicians average 11 hours.

A particularly interesting stat dug up by Manhattan was that physicians were far less likely to be interested in using pharma features within EMRs. The survey found that 83 percent of PAs, 79 percent of RNs and 76 percent of  of APRNs were interested, but only 67 percent of physicians.

I’m not suggesting that Manhattan did its work badly, but I am surprised by what I see here.  If nothing else, study after study has concluded that doctors are avid users of mobile technology at the point of care, including both smartphones and tablets.

Of course, doctors and nurses have different workflows, and that alone could be enough to explain the different between their digital consumption habits and doctors’.  But I can’t envision quite as easily why doctors and advanced practice nurses differ so much. It’ll be interesting to see if doctors catch up over the next year or two.

Connecting Mobile With Desktop A Chore

Posted on July 31, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Readers, I’m guessing  you’ve seen the same stats I have, which suggest that doctors are crazy about tablet use, as well as smartphones.  And we’d probably all agree that using both for clinical tasks makes sense in a lot of environments.

The thing is, few doctors are actually using these devices in day to day practice management, according to a recent study.  A survey of 1,190 physicians published in June found that 75 percent of doctors use their desktop for practice management tasks, according to American Medical News.  The study was published by little blue book directory and its parent company Sharecare.

Truthfully, doctors have a perfectly reasonable motive for doing so: they need the greater power and larger screens desktop computers provide. Not only that, they get to use their hospitals’ EMR in its original form, rather than through a Citrix or other client awkwardly shoehorned onto an iPad or Android tablet.

So, what to do to make the transition between these devices more seamless — and mobile devices better integrated into the mix? In a piece by Healthcare IT News‘ Michelle McNickle, whose work, like John, I’m beginning to find addicting, chief scientist at M.Modal Juergen Fritsch outlines some key steps in bridging the “mobile-desktop divide.” Here’s a few ideas on what needs fixing:

Inadequate apps:  Many of the apps physicians use most often aren’t available for tablets or the iPhone. Workarounds exist, but they’re crude.

Speech recognition is critical:  Doctors are already used to dictating into cellphones to do clinical documentation, so making tablets documentation friendly is very important.

Create a hybrid strategy: Don’t demand that physicians go all-mobile in one swoop, Fritsch suggests. Combine multiple devices and make the experience as similar as possible from device to device.

Educate doctors on the latest offerings:  Doctors who used the initial round of apps and interfaces on mobile devices were probably irritated, as they were fairly cumbersome. CIOs and CMOs should make sure they educate physicians on current offerings, which will probably appeal to them much more.

To put in my own quibble, my sense from researching the matter is that the biggest force holding back mobile use is simply getting EMR vendors to create native clients for tablets and phones. Even if they’re not fully-featured, they should at least be cleanly usable.  What do you think?

More Mobile Questions: Do Your Devices Play Nicely?

Posted on December 21, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Today I had a very interesting conversation with a health IT exec (full disclosure: a client) about the future of mobile devices in hospitals. His perspective, which sounded dead-on to me, was that while mobility is great, making sure your mobile and point of care devices work together is even more important.

Let’s look at the patterns emerging in clinical data access. Here’s some big pieces to consider:

* EMR: First, of course, the EMR. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands, or in some cases millions, to put your EMR in place (and in most if not cases, you’ll be spending big dollars on integration too). But having done that, you’re still not home. These days, you have to look at how doctors and nurses will access EMR data on the fly as well as in the office.  In other words, mobility is a must-have, not nice to have.

* Tablets: Clinicians are very excited about using tablets, especially the glamourous iPad. But sometimes, reality intervenes. In some cases, clinicians are satisfied with using them — take fellow contributor Dr. Michael West — even if their EMR might not have a native client available for the platform. But many other physicians and nurses have found them exasperating or even unusable given the volumes of data they’re managing.

* Smartphones:  Obviously, it’s great to let doctors access EMR data wherever they are, and in some cases, that works fine.  Smartphones are already in wide use by doctors,  70 to 85 percent of whom have one, according to various sources. Not only that, they’re light and portable. But given their small screens, smartphones aren’t the ideal vehicle with which to access detailed clinical data.

*Point of care devices:  The old faithful of portable data, point of care devices on carts were there long before newfangled smartphones and tablets made the scene.  You may have more confidence you can manage them, and depending on the specifics, you may save money on the front end. (Integration and support are a separate issue.)  The question is, are they going to meet the needs of doctors who don’t spend a lot of time on the hospital floor?

I’ve outlined these options as though they’re mutually exclusive, but the truth is, they’re all likely to pop up in your hospital, and more. Doctors and nurses carry smartphones and iPads of their own, you probably have COWs in place already, execs and clinicians tote laptops around and you probably have some wall-mounted computers or displays in place too. In other words, your real choice isn’t whether you mix and match mobile and point of care device, it’s how you manage them as a group.

Integrating this mix of device is a big technical challenge, a support headache, a security problem, and probably a Meaningful Use issue too. But you’re stuck with it. Now, how are you going to handle it?