How apps are shaping the future of healthcare facilities

by FM Media
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Australia’s population is rapidly ageing. By 2031, there will be close to six million Australians aged 65 and over, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) projections.

The ageing population will place unprecedented demands on healthcare facilities. Disease and chronic illnesses that are more prevalent among older age groups, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, require more care and are more costly to treat.

At the same time, healthcare costs are rising, while facilities struggle to serve more patients with limited resources, putting consumer satisfaction at risk. In Australia, primary healthcare, Medicare rebates and private health insurance fees have all been reviewed this year, leading to increasing cost pressures on consumers.

Healthcare facilities have an opportunity to improve patient satisfaction by enabling them to stay connected to and in control of their experience via mobile apps.

Consumers are increasingly using mobile apps to give them more control over their healthcare decisions at home, and they expect the same level of control when they are patients in a hospital. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities are in the digital slow lane when it comes to adopting mobile connectivity between staff and hospital in-patients.

Although it’s common to see physicians with a tablet in-hand at a patient’s bedside, and most patients are allowed to use their own mobile devices, patients must still push the call button on their beds to request help with several mundane tasks.

The result could lead to frustration for the patient, who cannot immediately meet his or her basic needs, and additional work for already overwhelmed nurses. This can have a severe domino effect that starts with patient and staff discontent and leads to lower hospital satisfaction and higher staff turnover.

Similarly, facility managers need immediate access to information to ensure the safety of patients, staff and visitors. As hospital building systems are more complex than other facilities, maintenance personnel are often not aware of a system issue until someone enters a work order.

Mobile apps, as part of an intelligent hospital infrastructure, enable staff to stay in constant contact with patients and colleagues. Intelligent infrastructure integrates separate systems so that they can ‘talk’ to one another, leading to better decision-making and improved staff efficiency.

Mobile is the new normal

Today’s healthcare consumers are mobile technology users immersed in the world of integrated, interconnected networks characterised as the Internet of Things (IoT). Portio Research estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide were using mobile apps by the end of 2012, a number it forecasts will grow to 4.4 billion by the end of 2017.

Although mobile apps for healthcare facilities are still considered a novelty, Ernst & Young predicts they will become mainstream within the next five years.

Adaptable mobile apps in particular – those tailored to provide automatic and on-demand information to the right user at the right time – are designed specifically for a hospital’s unique needs to close the gap between clinical activity and the environment in which patient care is provided.

Mobile apps for healthcare facilities

Many healthcare facilities have implemented standard mobile applications for patient administration. However, these apps are usually restricted to admissions, drug administration management, patient safety initiatives and other processes.

The missing element for healthcare facilities is the availability of mobile apps that connect staff, patients and the environment itself, while providing more visibility and control over infrastructure. Implementing adaptable mobile applications is the simplest and most effective way to improve patient satisfaction and staff efficiency.

Adaptable mobile apps get their name from their flexibility to adapt to each individual healthcare facility. Simplified and immediate access to information enables workflow efficiency gains, and adaptable mobile apps allow personalised access to that information based on the end-user’s role.

In healthcare facilities, 80 percent of users are non-technical. Adaptable mobile apps aim to allow access to information not readily available to other users who aren’t engineers. They seek to illustrate important information about the environment of care, in a simple way that non- technical users can utilise.

How mobile apps benefit various stakeholders The deployment of adaptable mobile apps delivers tangible benefits to all stakeholders – patients, medical staff, facility staff and administrators.

Patients

Thanks in part to the rise of healthcare mobile apps, consumers are more proactively involved in their own healthcare decisions. When integrated with intelligent systems for managing hospital infrastructure, an adaptable mobile app gives patients the ability to immediately view and change their room environment. Various widgets allow patients to adjust temperature, humidity, lighting, entertainment systems and more, without calling a nurse.

In the past, hospitals have tried to give patients the ability to control their own room temperature with a pillow remote. However, the patient had no proof the temperature was changing and it had no measurable effect on patient satisfaction.

By allowing the patient to not only control their room temperature, but also see it change on a bedside device, facilities give patients a greater sense of satisfaction by meeting their needs. The patient mobile app can also include a nurse call widget, as well as similar request buttons for cleaning and food services. This allows the patient to direct their request to the appropriate person, greatly improving patient satisfaction and staff productivity.

Nurses and physicians

Adaptable mobile apps reduce the number of tedious non-medical or ‘nuisance’ tasks nurses are required to do, resulting in improved workflow, increased productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction.

By removing non-medical responsibilities, nurses can focus on what matters most – patient care. Apps deployed on nurse workstations, devices and patient bedside terminals can be designed to receive alerts from patient rooms, report conditions or include hospital-wide specific communication.

Rather than focusing on administrative or support tasks, nurses can spend more time at the patient’s bedside or otherwise directly caring for the patient.

There are some concerns accompanying the use of mobile applications for storing sensitive patient information, such as medical charts. However, mobile app developers are becoming better at data encryption and security, meaning information should stay secure, and physicians and administrators can meet regulations.

Facility managers

The integration of an adaptable mobile app within an intelligent infrastructure can improve the communication and connectivity between FM and staff by providing virtual access to monitor and control the intelligent infrastructure.

Whether on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, FM can receive alerts and notifications related to the widgets within the app, as well as access electrical, hydraulic and mechanical dashboards.

An adaptable app tailored to a facility manager’s needs increases efficiency by alerting facility staff to infrastructure events and malfunctions as they happen, resulting in faster response times.

Staff can generate and monitor service calls and check the status of incidents anywhere,
at any time. As a result, the FM team works more efficiently and the need for paperwork is reduced, resulting in operational savings and improved job satisfaction.

Hospital executives/administrators

With mobile apps, administrators can keep tabs on aggregate statistics, such as room and bed availability, and performance data in areas like energy. The immediate access to information ensures that executives/administrators always make informed decisions and helps address any problems that arise.

Administrators looking to increase staff efficiency, reduce turnover and attract more patients can choose the widgets that fit the needs of their facility staff and patient demographic, improving the patient and caregiving experience. Additionally, the previously discussed visible benefits of adaptable mobile app usage help administrators achieve high industry ratings for low staff turnover and patient safety and satisfaction.

A mobile future

Adaptable mobile apps tailored to the needs and environment of healthcare facilities will drive the next generation of patient care. The time to adopt this technology is now, especially in light of escalating healthcare costs, the surge in app usage, and the growing trend of patients wanting more control. Providers who remain behind the curve in this area risk losing prospective patients to other facilities that have joined the mobile environment.

Adaptable mobile apps are the natural, seamless extension of sharing information across multiple systems. Healthcare facilities have the opportunity to take their technology infrastructure to the next level, while also becoming leaders in mobile health and patient/ staff satisfaction.

In the long run, providers who adopt these applications will find themselves better equipped to deal with the new challenges waiting on the horizons of the health world.

Written by Glen Scott of Schneider Electric. This article also appears in the December/January issue of Facility Management magazine.

Above image copyright: paza/123RF Stock Photo.

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