The digital health upgrade: mobile devices

Sean Lunde, digital health lead at Wipro Digital explores the potential of mobile devices to transform the healthcare ecosystem

Healthcare’s ‘perfect storm’ of competing interests siloes digital innovation.

A quick walk around any hospital illustrates the issue. As hospitals invest in technological advancements to aid healthcare professionals, lower hospital stays, speed recovery, and allow surgeons to carry out procedures with even-greater accuracy, technology is showing its worth. Take robotics as an example, the Royal Marsden hospital is the first NHS hospital in the country to use the da Vinci S surgical system, which is a robotics system for prostate cancer treatment. While many in the industry are utilising the technology that is available, many of those same surgeons are still using pagers as a primary means of communication.

The digital revolution is changing the paradigm, and more and more healthcare professionals and patients are using their mobiles for obtaining, sharing and collecting health information

Until recently, healthcare organisations accepted this lack of integration, and the archaic and outdated way of working. But the digital revolution is changing the paradigm, and more and more healthcare professionals and patients are using their mobiles for obtaining, sharing and collecting health information.

From the ability to use big data to inform a patients’ treatment, and storing information through electronic health records, to creating a personalised healthcare plan with one-to-one conversations, manufacturers in this area are developing all kinds of technology to craft a healthcare experience that is as connected and seamless as possible. In many cases, it is just as often the logistics of a trip to a hospital that equals a negative experience as much as treatment, but mobile is going a long way in ironing out many of the creases often related to healthcare in the UK.

The rise of wearables

One area that has helped many industries in collecting useful data and enhancing the product experience for the user is wearables. Wearables such as the Fitbit, Jawbone and Misfit trackers have been purchased by many users taking steps to keep a closer eye on their health. However, they do not generate what most medical professionals would consider clinical data. With that said, there are products arising from the wearables space that can provide data to directly inform and improve care in the medical arena. Point solutions like the ICEdot crash sensor have the potential to dramatically reduce expensive tests like MRIs, with time-of-incident crash impact detection; and the smart patch, a more-extreme example which is covered with more than 100 tiny needles that monitor blood and secrete insulin. This innovation has been dubbed as a contender in the fight to end the need for diabetes injections.

It could be said that the main issues holding back the full use of smartphones in today’s healthcare landscape are security concerns and the lack of a workflow-integrated user experience

The next generation of wearable devices focuses largely on delivering a contextual digital experience to the user by drawing on various data sources. The recently-released Apple Watch demonstrated that a single device can leverage integrated sensors and also be extended through various modes of connectivity. Alongside this, a mass of major technology companies are getting involved. Most recently, Samsung announced Samsung SleepSense, a personal healthcare device to improve the quality of sleep, packed with tracking technology, sensors and producing sleep data.

Sean Lunde

Connecting a centralised health ecosystem

The smartphone is the mobile device with the largest install base in healthcare. However, we see very little use of the relentless power offered by its hardware.

The use of smartphones in the healthcare industry is insular and fails to take advantage of the connectivity that’s available. It could be said that the main issues holding back the full use of smartphones in today’s healthcare landscape are security concerns and the lack of a workflow-integrated user experience.

In the future, as integration and security issues are addressed, the smartphone could truly change how clinicians work by enabling multimedia and the ability to integrate all communications.

Tablets: the IT prescription

Computers have been used in hospitals for over 50 years, but because of their size and general lack of integration and portability, they have failed to seamlessly integrate with bedside care. For some time, the biggest innovation in healthcare IT was putting a laptop on what looks like a teacart to create a workstation on wheels. But, as clinicians increasingly turn to working on tablets to access information quickly, they gain the ability to access data from anywhere and share information with patients in a portable and convenient manner.

It could be said that the main issues holding back the full use of smartphones in today’s healthcare landscape are security concerns and the lack of a workflow-integrated user experience

Healthcare computing systems were born long before mobile devices. Systems were designed for highly-trained employees with narrow scopes of work. But now digital devices, combined with integrated platforms and a techno-creative workforce, are disrupting the healthcare industry. It’s a huge industry, engrained in society, but it remains cut off from the digital age and is behind on mobile. The question remains, how will a healthcare industry of this size, all aspects considered, go fully mobile and upgrade the patient experience?

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