Mark Blatt

The "must-have" of mobility

December 12, 2013
By Mark Blatt

Mobility is no longer a “nice to have” in health care; it’s an expectation. And what’s exciting is seeing how innovations in mHealth at a horizontal level can transform care delivery. For example, take two recent technologies that have fundamentally changed communication and collaboration.

First, ad-hoc video conferencing. The Jetsons’ phone was science fiction for decades. Now, with video chat capability in your pocket, it’s here. Now, grandparents can pick up the phone and attend their grandchild’s birthday across the country.

Second, is streaming technology. In entertainment, there’s Netflix, now available on almost any device. In health care, we now have streaming telemetry, key metrics communicated in real time. Add that to video conferencing and the promise of mobility really expands.

Health care professionals have been using mobile tools to look up data. They get more accurate information. They make better decisions. That’s great, but it’s just a start. Today, we can form ad hoc teams and collaborate in cyberspace. Instead of one person going to six departments or six people meeting in one place, the departments come together and no one needs to go anywhere.

This provides some big benefits. For example, we are learning that to most effectively treat diabetes, a stroke, a heart attack, it takes a village. Now we can assemble the village ad hoc in cyberspace in ninety seconds and work in ways we couldn’t before. We call these collaborative workflows. They represent a fundamental change for the better. Now we no longer have a series of individuals doing isolated tasks, with the burden on the patient to communicate among them. The team can collaborate in real time or asynchronously. And we can go a step further by involving family and caregivers.

Here’s a practical benefit of this scenario. We’ve learned that improved communications at time of discharge, especially to follow-on physicians, is one of the best ways to avoid readmission. So we have continuity of care documents. But it turns out the most needed information isn’t in those documents. Physicians want the raw data. So what if, at the time of discharge, the floor nurse did a real-time video sign-out call communicating the CCD, the discharge summary, plus the telemetry. Now, if the patient has a problem post-discharge, their primary care doctor has the data to help and not send them back to the hospital.

Another benefit is streamlining the consult process. A quick video chat can get the care team communicating and making a decision within minutes rather than keeping the patient waiting for hours. They can use solutions like Lync to make direct, secure, HIPAA-compliant file transfers. They reduce handoff time and reduce cycle time. It’s applying LEAN principles to health care, while being more patient-focused.

Integrated organizations are taking advantage of ICT collaboration to extend the EMR’s benefits — to reach patients wherever/whenever they need treatment, with virtual care delivery — at a fraction of the cost. It’s a triple LEAN: improve quality, reduce cost, improve health. And by sharing information with patients and families, we can improve outcomes further, for example, by sending lab data directly to patients. It’s not only more efficient, it’s empowering. One study found that access to doctors’ notes in their EMRs resulted in 80 percent of patients feeling empowered and 70 percent improvement in medication compliance*.

So with mobile technology comes new thinking about collaboration and EMR. Virtual services are less costly. But they allow more people to be served, more conveniently and efficiently. So the question becomes, how can we deliver the most value and the highest quality of care, accessible to the most people? Mobile technologies will help us find the answer.

*Delbanco, Tom MD, Inviting Patients to Read Their Doctors' Notes: A Quasi-experimental Study and a Look Ahead, Annals of Internal Medicine, Oct. 2, 2012,

About the author: Dr. Mark Blatt joined Intel in 2000. In his role as worldwide medical director, he concentrates on how HIT infrastructure can enable providers to deliver cost effective, quality care to all citizens. He has a particular interest in integrated care delivery, mobile point of care, secure computing and the emergence of cloud services.