Last week, Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry smartphones, held a clinical collaboration summit in Boston to discuss their vision of the future of mobile device integration into healthcare IT. Several vendors and app makers attended and shared how they are implementing mobile devices into workflows with RIM claiming their superiority in security and data protection through data wiping, access control, and audit trail.
One claim that several speakers made was that hours per week could be saved by making clinical and logistical data available on smartphones and that studies have shown clinical information presented on a small screen can be used for mobile situation diagnostic ability, notably for ECG and OB data through companies like AirStrip. A few studies have backed parts of this claim, and a recent paper in the Journal of Hospital Medicine by Wu notes:
When smartphones were used for clinical communication, residents perceived an improvement in communication with them. Residents strongly preferred emails as opposed to telephone calls as the prime method of communication. Further objective evaluation is necessary to determine if this intervention improves efficiency and more importantly, quality of care.
RIM (and their collaborators) want to replace your pager, wireless phones, iPad (if you are using one), and dictaphone with their tools. Basically anything not tied down that physicians would want to carry with them, and even some of the things that are tied down. Their focus at the moment is on notification, rather than communication, due to the proliferation of patient management systems, EMRs, and smart phones (Amcom and Wallace Wireless were other participants at the conference). Some of the applications presented forced a response from the receiver, great for the audit trail, maybe overwhelming for the user getting hundreds of lab values a day.
The BlackBerry folks on hand were tight lipped about what will be revealed at next week’s developer conference and had a specific “No Comment” about any tablet-like device that may or may not be announced. They did hope that the medical IT community would be watching and thinking about ways to use BlackBerry in their workflows.
(Disclosure: at the end of the summit we were given a new BlackBerry Torch to take home. Quick review: solid and fast but less than intuitive after a few days of use. We will use it to for future reviews of medical apps for the BlackBerry)
J Hosp Med: The use of smartphones for clinical communication on internal medicine wards