In the original Star Trek TV show, communication devices were imbedded in the clothing of Star Fleet crew members. By the 1990s, McDonald’s were using wireless headsets for order takers who could walk the line of cars and enter orders. Returning a rental car? Data is transmitted in real time to handle check in and payment. Come 2006, Blackberry and like devices enable office based and hospital information to be merged, and ancillary references can be plugged in, all to better manage a patient with immediate, real-time information to make better decisions.
For those contemplating a Blackberry (or competitor) device, our good friends over at Research in Motion (RIM), the make of Blackberry, hosted a webinar on applications of the device in healthcare. The webinar can be viewed, albeit with detailed registration information, on the RIM website.
Handheld devices have been adapted by physicians and other providers for simple reasons – they work, they’re portable, and they save time and improve accuracy. Handhelds make sense in healthcare for a number of reasons: healthcare professionals are mobile, they are involved with tasks throughout their workday, they are information hungry, and time is of the essence. Information can “pushed” to the physician, so it’s there waiting for them when they ready for it. No one – not the sender, not the receiver – sits around waiting for the other person. Plus, no transcription errors on the receiving end, and it can be retrieved as needed.
In the webinar, the physician speaker, an ICU physician, talked about dealing with many emails using email – changes in patient condition, updates on labs, and so on. Nurse to physician emails were common as were emails to and from other healthcare team members. I can see this being used even within an office setting. as a practice administrator, I would also be able to send information over to my physicians or a note to see them when they’re free.
Over the next several months, partner companies will be offering more applications for the devices including: e-prescription, charge capture, drug interaction, and so on. Hospitals – some 81% of hospitals – are using them so phyisicians can have up to date informaiton on their patients as well as internal email communication concerning patient care. Handheld devices such as Blackberry are an “inflection point” development in the practice of medicine and patient care.