Are Smart Phones Smart Enough for Patient Care?
Monday, April 15, 2013
Traveling in China, Mark Tuthill, MD, FASCP, checks his iPhone and discovers a digital pathology slide of one of his patients from the United States.
The hypothetical scenario illustrates the unprecedented level of access to healthcare data that is now available in today’s digital era, according to Dr. Tuthill, Director of Pathology Informatics at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit.
“Smart phones are starting to play a more central role in patient care,” says Dr. Tuthill, who discusses mobile health technology, or mHealth, with medical students from Wayne State University and Michigan State University who perform rotations at the hospital. “The challenge is to make sure that information is interpretable. Placing a complex amount of patient health information on the small screen of an iPhone may not be easy to read, let alone interpret.
“Smart phones are starting to play a more central role in patient care. The challenge is to make sure that information is interpretable. Placing a complex amount of patient health information on the small screen of an iPhone may not be easy to read, let alone interpret.”
—Mark Tuthill, MD, FASCP
“The question is: Are we creating patient safety issues by trying to push information out through a device that may not be optimized for this?” Dr. Tuthill asks. “Is the information potentially less secure because we’ve allowed it to be transmitted on a mobile device?”
Healthcare clinicians increasingly struggle with these issues, especially as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pushes for physicians to become more electronically savvy. HHS is exploring ways to capitalize on advances in mobile phone technology and platforms, with the overall aim of improving public health.
In 2012, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, working with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, launched a Privacy and Security Mobile Device project with the goal to develop “an effective and practical way to bring awareness and understanding to those in the clinical sector to help them better secure and protect health information while using mobile devices.”
Building on existing guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the project seeks to identify privacy and security good practices for mobile devices that can be disseminated to healthcare providers and others in the field.
New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City, has implemented Epic, an integrated clinical information system that gathers all of the patient information on a single platform. The Medical Center’s physicians can access and view patient charts that are in the electronic system, and laboratories can send information or questions to physicians’ electronic mailboxes that are secured in the system, according to Irina Lutinger, MPH, MASCP, H(ASCP)DLM, Senior Administrative Director of Clinical Laboratories.
“The physicians can have it set up for messages to go into their personal digital assistant (PDA), if they choose, but they would have to dial in through a secure server to access that information,” says Ms. Lutinger. “It is very secure. Patients can also access their health records electronic and communicate with their physicians using the system. The ultimate goal is to improve the safety and quality of health care and access to health care.”