Paging a doctor or physician has been the primary means of communication in hospitals for many years. If you’ve been to a hospital, or watched your fair share of General Hospital or Grey’s Anatomy, you know how this goes. But there are a lot of breakdowns and loopholes in this process; understanding and closing these gaps was what one study set out to do, by integrating secure text messaging.
Secure Text Messaging
The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Internal General Medicine and authored by several physicians, including Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS.
The study included more than 10,000 patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medial Center; both facilities participated in the yearlong study that took place between 2013 and 2014.
In addition to discussing the importance of closing these time-sensitive gaps in coordination, the study concluded that better communication resulted in reduced time at the hospital for most patients; patients whose care teams used the secure text messaging systems left the hospital .77 days earlier, according to the report.
Until recently, email and SMS text messaging platforms were strictly prohibited by hospitals. Most platforms didn’t offer the security features needed to align with current regulatory polices. But as mHealth and mobile communications have developed, many of these issues have been resolved.
The advancement of mobile technology, smartphones, and wireless communication preempted a lot of issues in the healthcare industry. According to Dr. Patel, it’s about time the medical field caught up with the 21st century.
“Many forms of communications within the hospital are shifting mediums in part due to the rising adoption of smartphones and new mobile applications,” said Patel.
A Communication Correlation
Until this study, whether hospitals were using mHealth platforms like SMS or not, most physicians were unaware of any link mobile technology might have with the real time a patient spent in a hospital. Thanks to Patel and the co-authors of the study, that link has been significantly illustrated.
“Healthcare innovation is more than just using the newest smartphone app,” explained co-author David A. Asch, MD, MBA. “It involves carefully designed implementation and thoughtful evaluation of its impact on clinical care.”
Medical teams can use these secure text-messaging programs to communicate in groups with various healthcare providers simultaneously. They can share data and patient history and gain more immediate access to information. Less waiting for the doctors means less waiting for the patient, freeing up hospital beds that are already in short supply.
Using mHealth devices and technology is the most likely solution for many issues currently faced by our healthcare system. It’s likely that future studies will illuminate even more ways in which these devices affect patient care and treatment plans.