Mobile apps for healthcare professionals: Current and future trends

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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

Airtable for content creators

While seeking out some options to manage an editorial calendar for one of my personal sites, I came across Airtable with its promises to bring the power of a database to a spreadsheet. My position on spreadsheet project management is documented so I was a wee bit skeptical at first. Besides, I’m not a believer in tools that promise to be everything to everybody. Airtable stays away from that trap while still offering a range of templates to govern some current and upcoming content project management needs of mine.

Airtable works on a workspace model that they call a base. Out of the box, there are some useful tools for content creators who are looking for a tool to provide more structure to their strategy and publishing workflows.

Content marketing management base

Even back when I was writing technical documentation, I saw the value of managing publishing as a process even if my employer or client didn’t ask for it directly. The Content Marketing Management feature of Airtable is well-presented and graphically-appealing. It’s a screen that lends itself to be projected on a screen during a meeting.

While I see Airtable for content marketing management for mature departments or teams because it offers so much out of the box for content marketers letting them manage content ideas, personas, published stories, verticals, and SEO keywords for an entire content initiative.

When you click on a publication in the Content Marketing Management table, a record appears which is fully customizable. While the out of the box solution presents some typical publishing milestones, I like a more checklist-based approach that a tool such as Asana, Todoist, or Trello offers but that’s just me. When I dug into the customizable fields, I did find a checkbox field so if you’re like me you could build out your own editorial checklists.

It’s a robust view into content marketing, you can even add new tables to the Content Marketing option to customize Airtable to your publishing workflow

Blog editorial calendar base

Managing a corporate or personal/professional blog is best done with a strategy and plan. Airtable includes a Blog Editorial Calendar workspace that works much the same as the Content Marketing Management base with the same level of customizability.

Final thoughts

The next time I have to meet a requirement to manage an editorial calendar, Airtable — if feasible — will certainly enter the discussion as a possible solution.

I do fault Airtable on the deliberate complexity of its user interface terminology. It has workspaces, bases, and tables. While I applaud the UX of the app, I did need to verify the terminology when I was writing this post.

Their iOS mobile app appears impressive on my iPad Pro and iPhone 8 Plus offering full access to all of Airtable’s features. As I am an early bird in an industry of late risers, full access from a mobile app means I can consult project information during off hours

Airtable comes with a 14-day trial of its premium features. You can choose from tiered pricing.

While Trello remains a go-to tool for me, I must say Airtable has my attention and I can see myself using it on a project at some point in the future.

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Integrating Atlassian Confluence Cloud with Microsoft Teams

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I’ve been following the rise of Microsoft Teams for some time now as the collaboration tools geek that I can sometimes be. The third-party integrations coming available in Microsoft Teams continue to get interesting — throwing away the old Microsoft rule of a 100% Microsoft stack — by enabling integration with third-party SaaS and other applications. I’m especially happy to see the Teams integration with Atlassian Confluence Cloud.

Confluence Cloud and the Teams Store

Microsoft Teams uses an app model for easy integration with Atlassian Confluence Cloud. The app store model is well known so while Teams doesn’t break any new ground here, I did find the store to be responsive and easy to use.

Microsoft Teams Store Landing Page

Microsoft Teams integration made easy

I’ve long been on record that collaboration and group chat applications need to be open to the end users instead of being locked down with service desk tickets being the only key to unlocking them. When administrators give users the appropriate Teams and Confluence privileges, it’s a real easy install and integration.

Click on Store from the sidebar of the Teams application. The Store appears. Search for Confluence and Confluence Cloud selection appears on your screen.

Confluence Cloud in the Teams Store

Select a Team in which to add Confluence Cloud integration from the Add to a Team: drop-down list. Click Install.

Now select the channel where you want to use Confluence Cloud. Click Setup. You only have to do the setup once for Confluence Cloud to be available to authorized users across your other Teams and Channels.

Next, follow the prompts from the Confluence Cloud dialog box. You can now add a reference to a Confluence page residing on your Confluence Cloud. Here’s an example:

When you click on View in Confluence, you are taken directly into Confluence to the page or File list.

Teams + Confluence Cloud

The integration between Teams and Confluence is a smart move. It shows a Microsoft that looks beyond its own technology stack by offering their enterprise customers the tools they need to get the job done. Confluence Cloud is a favorite of DevOps teams because it offers authoring tools that SharePoint just can’t touch.

I’m also a proponent of project teams choosing and managing their own collaboration platforms. Using Microsoft Teams makes that easy because while the company itself may use SharePoint as their standard collaboration platform, their DevOps team can still link to Atlassian Confluence — their preferred collaboration platform — to get their work done.

Personally, I like the thought of using this app to send links to documents or pages to busy executives and others who might shy away from using Confluence.

Why will you be integrating Confluence Cloud with Microsoft Teams?

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Integrating Trello with Confluence Cloud

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I’m a big fan of Atlassian Trello for managing editorial projects so I was happy to find that Trello integration is now available for Microsoft Teams. These two applications are an ideal match — both popular with end users — plus making Trello available from inside Teams is another way to enable project teams to use the applications that make them productive.’

Go to the Microsoft Teams Store. Click on Trello. A descriptive dialog appears that’ll guide you through integrating Trello into Microsoft Teams.

Select a Team in which to add Trello. For purposes of this post, I chose a Team named Testing.

Click Install. Now Trello is available for the Team you specified in the installation. Next, specify a channel for Trello.

Click Set up beside each feature you want to set up. During the writing of this post, I set up all the features.

Click Log in with Trello. The Trello Login appears. Select a Trello board for collaboration. Click Save. The Trello board you select appears as a tab available to the Team

Once you login to Trello, the board you chose appears inside a Microsoft Team tab:

Trello inside a Microsoft Teams Tab

Final thoughts

We work in an era where work management tools need to be easy to use and accessible to project teams and the stakeholders they support. Trello and Microsoft Planner are direct competitors so the inclusion of Trello integration in the Microsoft Teams Store is yet another sign of the new Microsoft. While too often in my experience, organizations hold a tight rein on things such as the Microsoft Teams Store, more and more.

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

5 lessons I’ve learned from coaching writing

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My work as a technical writer sometimes means that I have to coach solutions architects and other technical people in the fine arts of writing. It’s a part of my work that I’ve come to find a new appreciation for over the past few years.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

1. Technical people hate to write, but there are reasons why

There’s a stereotype that technical people can’t write, and there’s much truth to that statement. I’ve had the fortune to work with some technical people who can write and write well. When I’ve brought up the roots of their writing hate, more than one person pointed back to some negative high school or college experience with a teacher. Another frequent response was being too busy.

2. Keep it simple for the non-writer

My rule for coaching a non-writer is to keep it simple for them. Figuring out just how to keep things simple for the non-writer happens on a case-by-case basis for me at least. Here’s a sampling of some things I’ve done in the past:

  • Encourage the non-writer to focus on being methodical and to break down what they are writing about on a whiteboard or on a piece of scratch paper
  • Encourage the logical thinking side of the technical person because of the role it plays in writing technical content
  • Tell them that the semicolon isn’t their friend so use Short paragraphs and sentences to improve clarity in their writing
  • Ask them what they need from me to be successful in writing the document and adjust my coaching approach with them

3. Encourage the non-writer to iterate on writing

I always advise anybody I coach writing to iterate upon what they write and sit on their drafts at least a day before they revise them if they have the time. It’s something I do as a writer, and I often relate my own experience with using this practice myself.

Depending on the person, I also encourage them to write a draft without editing until the draft is complete.

4. Introduce the non-writer to machine editing

Self-editing for non-writers takes time and practice for non-writers in my experience. I’m always happy to recommend machine editing tools to these people. HemingwayApp — which highlights lengthy and verbose sentences — and also Grammarly to non-writers I’m working with on a project. While these apps and others like them can’t replace a human editor, they can help serve as another set of checks for a non-writer who might not yet be confident in their writing skills.

I use that fact that AI is underlying today’s machine editing tools to make it more attractive to non-writers who’d benefit from the technology.

5. Deliver constructive and actionable reviews of what they write

It’s hard to not write in the IT industry and not have some bad experiences with document reviewers and editors. My aim is always to deliver constructive and actionable reviews of documents from non-writers that add value to their document and them.

It’s important to be seen as a collaborator, not as their freshman comp teacher. Part of this collaboration comes from being conversant in technology the document is supposed to cover. You can instantly lose credibility as a writing coach when you try to mold writing to fit your lack of understanding. You gain credibility when you write constructive comments with intelligent questions.

Final thoughts

While I dare say that writing does bring me joy in many circumstances, the same can’t be said for technical staff. I’ve made it my mission as a coach to offer the people I’m helping a positive experience with writing.

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.