Just as cell phones became nearly ubiquitous in the 1990s, wireless and mobile devices are poised to sweep into widespread usage in healthcare information technology, according to a survey of technologically adept healthcare providers.
Of the 761 physicians, administrators and healthcare IT professionals who took a recent survey from the Newton, Mass.-based Medical Records Institute and Snomed International, more than 55% have some form of wireless Internet access, while 50.6% can retrieve lab information via a wireless link at the point of care. About 40% can access drug reference information through the airwaves.
Additionally, 37% of the healthcare providers surveyed say they have basic repositories for storing clinical data, text and reimbursement codes. And 67% indicate they will have the technology within four years.
Especially given the high number of respondents that already have mobile technology in place for clinical IT applications, "I think that it is surprising that number is not higher," says MRI Vice President Jeff Blair.
Adoption may approach 70% for lab data and 60% for drug reference over the next four years, the survey indicates. And 17.4% of respondents say they currently have mobile order entry capability, with another 15% expecting to add it by next year.
The MRI puts on the annual TEPR (Toward an Electronic Patient Record) conference, while Snomed, a project of the American College of Pathologists, is a database of standardized terminology for electronic clinical decision support.
"We've seen the survey indicate the need for physician order entry," says Snomed COO Diane Aschman. "We're focused on terminology in drugs and lab order entry and results reporting."
Other potential growth areas include electronic prescribing, clinical guidelines and wireless retrieval of problem lists from electronic medical records, according to the survey.
Named by 58.5% of all respondents, money remains the No. 1 barrier to adoption of EMRs of any kind. Less than half of those in ambulatory care environments cited funding as a barrier, however.
"The actual amount of money that it takes to implement this is not as great as the return on investment," Blair says. But with the American Hospital Association reporting that one-third of hospitals are losing money, capital investments may be taking a back seat.
"They are literally in survival mode," Blair says. "They view information systems as a cost rather than an investment."