4 Considerations to Make When Going Mobile in Home Health

As an increasing number of home health agencies undergo upgrades to meet the demands of today’s digital health care landscape, providers must select the networks and mobile devices that will best fit their needs and protect sensitive information.

Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ database of major breach reports — those affecting 500 people or more — has tracked 944 incidents affecting personal information from about 30 million people, said Chris Tackett Director of Americas Vertical Industry Marketing at Intel, during a recent webinar presented by HomeCare Magazine and Panasonic.

“All the different applications you use — from laptops, medical devices, billing records, the agencies you work with over wireless networks — these are all targets for hackers in this new age,” Tackett said. “Today’s challenge is to protect the personal information of your patients, staff and partners; to better secure your networks; and achieve optimized security at a lower total cost of ownership.”

And going mobile isn’t a luxury, but a requirement for many agencies who want to be on the front lines of offering a continuum of care, said Jamil King, national sales manager of healthcare at Panasonic System Communications Company North America.

“We’re seeing a switch from hospital-centered to patient-centered care,” King said. “That care delivery outside the hospital is driving better outcomes. Patients are much more comfortable in their own environment.”

In fact, 93% of health care executives say mobile devices are critical to day-to-day operations in the home health and hospital industries, according to a 2013 survey.

President Obama set a goal for all Americans to have a digital health record by this year. And while the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a final rule that gives health care providers flexibility in EHR use, next year all eligible professionals, hospitals and CAHs are required to use the 2014 Edition CEHRT.

Here are four considerations home health operators should evaluate when selecting the best operating system for their business.

1. Tablets vs laptops

Providers today have a variety of mobile device choices, but each offers different benefits.

Tablets are highly portable, offer and easy to use touch screen, long battery life and constant connectivity, while laptops offer extensive software choices, a larger screen full keyboard, are highly durable and transition well from office to field use, King said. “What is the need and full functionality of the device I select?” providers should ask themselves, King advises. “Am I required to have more than one device to do my job function?”

2. Consumer-grade vs. enterprise-grade mobile devices

Consumer-grade devices are created for household, or personal use, and may not hold up to workplace demands.

“Consumer grade devices have a rapid replacement cycle, and that’s one of the downsides,” King said. “But, they have helped people get acclimated to using technology in everyday life.”

Enterprise-grade devices are often larger — increasing viewability and durability. In addition, they also tend to have longer life cycles. But, they do cost more than consumer-grade devices.

3. What will benefit home care staff?

Home care workers want devices that have a long battery life, are portable and easy to carry and are durable enough to withstand the demands of their jobs, including sanitization, drops, spills and use with gloves on.

“Home care providers need to ensure surfaces are disinfected, and that is especially critical for wound care,” he said.

In addition, nurses and caretakers can’t rely on wireless Internet at every patient’s house, which means “embedded broadband is a must,” he said.

And viewability outdoors is also important.

“You don’t want your home care worker to drive around looking for a shady place to park in order to see the screen,” he said. “That’s an example of how the wrong device can impact workflow.”

4. What will benefit IT?

In addition to security concerns, Information technology (IT) staff wants mobile solutions that require minimal maintenance, offer extensive backend support, are long lasting and enable rapid deployment.

“IT is looking at vendor issues and the overall break/fix process and life cycle replacement,” King said. “They’re looking at vendor interaction.”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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