In yesterday’s story in mHealth News, “mHealth’s great untapped potential: Nurses,” Editor Eric Wicklund cites a new report by Spyglass Consulting, which found: “42 percent of hospitals still rely on pagers, overhead paging systems or landline phones for their nurses, even though 67 percent have nurses who are already using their own smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow.”
I agree it’s a problem to have so many hospital nurses relying on ineffective, legacy communication systems. It’s also worrisome that so many of them are using unsecured personal phones to transmit patient information. Yet I think the Spyglass report also exposes a larger issue: Our hospital administrators are facing really tough choices about where to invest their capital dollars, especially in an increasingly challenging reimbursement environment. And those choices are even tougher based on the difficulty of trying to tease out the return on investment for technology investments.
Think about it: You or a loved one is a patient in pain. If your nurse can quickly send a text message to your physician requesting pain medication, isn’t there a huge value in receiving that medication 15 minutes sooner than if the nurse had to page the doctor and wait for a return phone call? We intuitively know quicker communication is an advantage for both patients and caregivers in such a scenario, even if that value is difficult to quantify.
As a hospital CIO for many years, I understand the dilemma of numerous competing projects vying for the same budget dollars. When presented with a new technology, such as a mobile communication system for nurses, the CIO must be able to explain to the CFO and other leadership how the system will pay for itself and why it’s worth the investment. Suggesting that time savings will translate to reduced head count, especially in nursing, is a naïve and impractical argument. Nurse staffing is already tightly managed to match patient acuity and control costs. What’s more valuable is providing nurses with tools that enable them to optimize their time and respond more quickly to patient needs.
More efficient workflows, better patient satisfaction scores, higher staff retention rates due to lower frustration levels, and improved patient safety thanks to more effective alarms and alerts are all positive impacts of a Mobile Communication Strategy. We in the mHealth industry need to partner with IT and nursing leadership to help them leverage investments in an “ecosystem” of technologies and networks that work together. By providing effective, affordable tools, we can assist nurses in the incredibly complex and important task of caring for their patients.
Take a look at Eric’s story in mHealth News, and let me know what you think about the recent report from Spyglass Consulting. I’ll look forward to reading your comments below.