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por Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | December 05, 2012
Most health care executives predict mobile technologies will have a big impact on U.S. health care delivery, at first primarily with programs that could help curb hospital readmissions, according to the new HIMSS mhealth survey released Monday.

The second annual survey also found that doctors are using mobile apps mostly for speedier access to patient information, while lack of funding and IT staff topped executives' lists of mobile's biggest barriers. Also, about one-quarter of respondents had mobile devices fully integrated with electronic health records at their institutions.

"The mobile platform is arguably the largest technology platform in history," Anthony Shimkin, senior director of marketing at Qualcomm Life, which sponsored the survey, observed during the meeting. "Worldwide you're [seeing] that more people have access to this technology than to water, potable water, electricity and even a toothbrush."

Among surveyed executives, 68 percent believe mobile health will substantially or dramatically change U.S. health care, while 30 percent believe it will have little or no impact, according to the poll of 180 health care leaders shared during a session at the 2012 mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C.

Pharmacy management, such as medication reminders, and continuum of care, which includes apps that help extend service outside of the hospital and into the home, are now seen as the areas of patient care most likely to benefit from mobile tech, the survey said. Still, the numbers were somewhat modest. When executives were asked how useful the products were along a seven-point scale, with seven being the most useful, both received an average score of around 4 points.

Shimkin said both technologies have the potential to help hospitals tackle hospital readmissions, by helping patients with illnesses like congestive heart failure at home or trying to avoid adverse drug reactions.

Clinicians and devices

Smartphones are ubiquitous among health providers, and respondents said 80 percent of clinicians use the technology in the provision of care. However, they seldom use it often. When asked what percentage of patient care was delivered by doctors at the organization using mobile apps, three-quarters of respondents said less than half the time or none at all. Only 19 percent said mobile was involved in over 50 percent of care.

"While it's widespread and prolific in health care organizations, there's still lots of opportunity and lots of room to grow," Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research at HIMSS Analytics, said at the conference.

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