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Mobile apps for healthcare professionals are becoming the norm in hospitals and medical practices around the country. After all, healthcare workers are the ultimate mobile workforce — they are desk-free and need tools for instantaneous collaboration and information retrieval. The global mobile health app market is projected to be valued at $28.32 billion in the year 2018. It’s expected to reach $102.35 billion by 2023, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 29.3 percent during the period, according to Research and Markets.

Mobile apps in a healthcare environment promote secure collaboration and retrieval of patient health information (PHI) from anywhere in the hospital or practice. In the US, all healthcare mobile apps must be HIPAA compliant, so consumer app solutions don’t meet those security requirements. This gives rise to a new class of secure mobile apps for healthcare professionals.

The growing influence of mobile apps for healthcare professionals

The impact of mobile apps for healthcare professionals isn’t lost on the industry. The American Medical Association, American Heart Association, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and digital health nonprofit DHX Group are founders of the guideline-writing nonprofit called Xcertia, according to AMA Wire. The nonprofit calls for mobile app assessment in the following areas:

  • Operability for a reasonable user experience
  • Privacy over user information and PHI in full compliance with federal and state laws, rules and regulations
  • Security protecting the app from external threats
  • Accurate and current content in the app

Mobile apps are also having an impact on the home healthcare market, enabling patients to leave the hospital for home sooner. A home healthcare worker can use HIPAA-compliant secure messaging to communicate with colleagues. They can even retrieve a patient’s electronic health records (EHRs) securely using their smartphone or a cellular-equipped tablet. The more a home healthcare worker can do from the field, the more time they get to spend with patients. It’s the same use case you hear for field services workers such as cable technicians.

In general, healthcare professionals have many new mobile capabilities to look forward to in the coming years:

1. Unified mobile clinical communications

A unified communications solution is the standard communications and collaboration platform for many of us. Healthcare security requirements demand secure solutions, so it’s important to watch the unified mobile clinical communications trend, as reported by Healthcare IT News. Think of it as unified communications and workflow for healthcare professionals. The aim of this technology trend is to unify single-purpose apps under a single user interface, promoting staff efficiency.

2. Mobile video chat for telemedicine

As more health insurance companies and hospital conglomerates diversify into telemedicine, mobile apps will play a greater role. For example, a physician on-call for telemedicine duty can open a patient conference using their smartphone or tablet rather than having to sit at their PC. The quality of the experience will only improve with the advent of 5G and faster broadband.

3. Patient engagement

Because physicians, nurses and other medical professionals are always on the go, it’s important to employ tools to enhance patient engagement. Additionally, hospitals must track patient outcomes to stay compliant with the Affordable Care Act, according to Government Technology. There’s a new generation of mobile apps going live to provide performance metrics, address patient feedback, track possible trends and pinpoint workflow gaps. Envision a nursing supervisor being able to track departmental patient metrics or making a scheduling change using a smartphone app while they are walking the floor or even while at home between shifts. Furthermore, the handoff of such patient-engagement data is made easier during shift changes because supervisors and nurses all have access to the latest data.

4. Improved HIS access

With more powerful mobile devices, secure Wi-Fi, MDM and geofencing now in place, it opens up improved access to Health Information Systems (HIS). Healthcare professionals gain better access to EHRs through robust mobile apps with secure links to cloud back-end systems.

5. Improved scheduling from mobile devices

Hospitals are a walking, talking example of difficult scheduling, with employees working varying shifts that constantly change. There’s a growing class of mobile scheduling tools that enable nurses and other healthcare workers to enter in their shifts months in advance. These tools use algorithms to memorize their most common shifts, reducing schedule entry time in the future. Staff managers can also use the apps to communicate schedule changes to their team.

What’s next: AI and the future of healthcare mobile apps

The future of mobile health apps truly may be the deployment of artificial intelligence. The technology is already disrupting clinical workflows by offering healthcare professionals new decision-support tools. Think of a healthcare professional accessing an AI-powered mobile app to review a patient’s EHR or to research symptoms. As reported by MobiHealthNews, AI-driven mobile health certainly isn’t without its challenges, such as hospital infrastructure and patient privacy. And while AI could augment healthcare professionals, there are those that are concerned it could take away jobs.

The healthcare industry will have to deal with such challenges before AI becomes commonplace in healthcare mobile apps, but the trade-off is empowered professionals who are able to provide more efficient and integrated patient care with all the data they need right at their fingertips.

This post was originally published on Mobile Business Insights on March 26, 2018. The site is no longer in publication.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

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