Being connected is handy. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pulled out my iPhone to get directions, look up a recipe, respond timely to an email or access a game to help keep one of my kids entertained. I’ve got apps on my phone that let me make travel arrangements, turn on my car, find stars in the night sky and keep track of my workout routine.
Mobile devices and medical apps are changing health care as we know it. Most health care workers I know utilize some type of mobile device daily to help them be more effective and efficient in the delivery of health care. Health care providers use smartphones and tablets in order to run a wide variety of medical apps that help them care for patients, while using those same devices away from work to control apps that have nothing to do with medicine. Using smartphones and tablets in their daily lives makes health care workers increasingly comfortable using those devices in the workplace.
Having ready access to information can enhance patient care but there is also risk associated with the use of mobile devices. If protected patient information is placed on a personal device then that device is subject HIPAA rules. If a personal device accesses an organizations network, there is risk of unwanted intrusion of viruses to an organizations secure network.
There’s a delicate balance to be reached between enhancing health care workers abilities and protecting patient safety and privacy so much so that the FDA is considering increasing oversight of medical apps and any device, even personal devices, that run health care apps.
I see real value in data and information being available at the fingertips of a health care worker. I also see the need for great responsibility on behalf of the worker. Medical apps also provide value to patients because apps can help a patient monitor an illness, remind them to take a medication or prompt them to follow-up with a provider.
Apps aren’t going anywhere which means more and more thought will need to go into how apps are utilized and how patient information and connected networks are protected.