Leading hospitals across the country are moving away from outdated technologies and adopting smartphones as the ultimate alternative for caregiver communication. As smartphones proliferate at the point of care and beyond, more applications will emerge that offer far more than communication, not only for nurses but also for doctors, support staff and patients inside and outside the hospital. National Health IT Week is a perfect time to take a look at the value of these new technologies in a healthcare setting.
Given the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets in our personal lives, it’s easy to see how they also have the power to improve patient experience, engagement and even entertainment. The phones we carry every day are really personal computers in our pockets. They combine numerous functions – camera, calendar, voice recorder, video recorder, alarm clock, encyclopedia and much more – all in one device. Add a virtually limitless selection of medical apps, and you have a powerful resource anytime, anywhere.
With a tablet at each bedside, for example, a doctor might show a patient his or her X-rays, a 3-D anatomical drawing and a video clip for a clear picture of what’s going on. Later, the patient can look up medical jargon, research their medications and possible side effects, and even watch the latest episode of a favorite TV show. The best schoolteachers know students are more enthusiastic when they have a hands-on role in the lesson. It’s the same for adults – taking an active role in the treatment plan gives patients a sense of empowerment, and may even make them more likely to follow doctor’s orders.
Smartphones at the bedside also are valuable for patients who speak languages other than English. Nurses and doctors can call a translator or refer to one of many language translation apps, ensuring the patient not only understands what’s being said but also feels involved in the process.
Smart technologies are all about timely flow of information. So while hospitals use snail mail to send HCAHPS surveys to patients after they go home (sometimes weeks later), tablets and smartphones can be used to survey patients proactively before discharge. If an issue needs to be resolved, the care team can respond and preempt a negative patient experience. See our latest white paper, “Staying Ahead of the HCAHPS Curve.”
After discharge, hospitals are starting to use apps that encourage patients to record their own vital signs, such as pulse, body temperature and blood pressure. Other apps help patients keep track of follow-up appointments and let them send and receive text messages about their treatment plan.
By bridging the gap between caregivers and patients, allowing for a smooth flow of information, and empowering people to take part in their own care, smart technologies go a long way toward adding value to the entire patient experience.