One of the best views of last week’s HIMSS conference was from the long walkway leading from the massive exhibit hall to the parking garage. Through the ramp’s expansive glass windows, I could look out at hundreds of exhibitors and envision how each individual company helps make up the big picture of the health IT industry.
I think we need to look at mHealth the same way. While walking the show floor and meeting with our partners and customers, it became clear to me that we don’t yet have a complete definition of mHealth everyone can agree upon. Is mHealth about wireless networks, telecom systems, and wired devices capable of connecting through middleware? Does it include how we leverage iPads, other wireless devices and workstations on wheels to mobilize our electronic health records? Or how we communicate securely and decide which devices to converge upon? All of these technologies fall under the “mobile” umbrella, but without a vision for how they can all work together, we’re left with a lot of disconnected parts.
At Voalte, we’ve spent the past five years working with some of the country’s leading hospitals to create a comprehensive Mobile Communication Strategy that brings together all the pieces of the mobility puzzle. We’ve learned that when hospitals try to solve communication challenges one at a time, they end up with a jumble of standalone technologies. Maybe they implement a texting solution for caregivers, or upgrade their PBX phone exchange, or bring in a new way to manage their nurse call system. Issues arise when caregivers realize they still need multiple tools to do their jobs effectively, or their new texting app has limited range and functions, or they can’t access the wealth of patient information in their new electronic medical records.
If you’re thinking about how mobile technologies can help improve efficiency and patient care at your healthcare facility, take a step back and look at the whole picture. Before introducing new mobile technologies, consider how they can all converge on one device and best leverage investments you may have already made in wireless networks or middleware. By taking a holistic approach to your Mobile Communication Strategy, you can envision how the pieces fit together, even if you aren’t ready to complete the entire puzzle. At a minimum, it may keep you from throwing away an investment.
Were you at HIMSS14 last week? Please post a comment sharing your thoughts about the evolving mHealth space. Together, we can come up with a definition that prepares all of us for the tremendous growth coming in this area of the health IT industry.