It likely won’t be a surprise that Pew Research found that 97% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. But what might be shocking is that, until recently, mobile adoption in health care has continued to lag. The majority of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are not mobile friendly, and especially in the behavioral health industry, slower adoption rates are holding the industry back.

Today, as companies spend billions of dollars and thousands of hours developing lifesaving medicine and surgical equipment, basic technology adoption continues to be an issue. The health care industry is notorious for clunky, outdated software. These antiquated systems tend to create unnecessary administrative burden, are vulnerable to security risks, and are not mobile friendly.

But being mobile friendly isn’t just about convenience—improving communication has a direct impact on patient care. In fact, ineffective team communication has been found to be the root cause of approximately 66% of all medical errors. In addition, the majority of malpractice claims are a result of a communication breakdown between the clinician and the patient. These issues often occur because patient information is recorded incorrectly into an EHR. Therefore, easy access to input, read or edit patient records is critical to ensuring quality care.

Ongoing staff shortages are also a driving factor behind the rise in mobile adoption. Mobile apps work hand-in-hand with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to increase patient engagement through scheduling functionality, reminders, text, and chatbot functionality. As a result, health care providers are seeing fewer no-shows and more employee engagement, while saving money by not requiring staff 24/7.

Additionally, there are many health care providers still using paper for questionnaires and patient intake forms. By advancing mobile capabilities, all intake paperwork can be done using a tablet or remotely, which significantly reduces administrative time and the potential for errors. AI and virtual assistant technology can also work hand-in-hand with mobile to screen patients and limit the need for in-person assistance.

Overcoming barriers to adoption

For nearly a decade, a major barrier to mobile adoption was that the phone was still viewed as only a communication device. While still important in health care, it took changing the perception of mobile to really drive adoption. The mobile device has now become a powerful tool that enables patient interactions in rural settings, it allows staff to work from home, it enables AI functionalities, and more.

Another barrier to adoption was that the technology was just not advanced enough to be worth the trouble. Every software update had to be approved by the company, and mobile devices were very disconnected from the servers and other central points of information. As mobile devices have evolved and perception has changed, these barriers have been largely eliminated.

Five years ago, health care providers didn’t see mobile as a priority or a necessary tool in improving the patient experience. The health care industry was never set up on the idea of patient engagement, training and education. These are values that emerged as society evolved. The pandemic changed this and eliminated many of the traditional hurdles the industry was facing that limited mobile adoption. Health care lagged because industry professionals didn’t know how to use the technology and held on to the fact that 97% of health care communication was face-to-face. The pandemic shattered all of that and didn’t result in losing people the way everyone thought it might. It shook the industry to the core, but also made room for fresh ideas and technologies. This was great news for those who wished to see mobile adoption in health care advance.

Like in many different industries, the pandemic forced digital transformation at an unprecedented rate. In the last two years, everything has been moving, and the use of apps, tablets and mobile workstations is now the norm.

Ultimately, in order for mobile to be successful, companies must view it as a way to enhance the traditional functionality of the desktop — not replace it —and health care in general must continue to embrace patient engagement as a core value. Mobile adoption has come a long way in the last two years, but it still has a surprisingly long way to go by any modern standard. The future of health care is mobile, and for the industry, the possibilities are endless.

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Physician’s Weekly | March 20, 2022

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