Wednesday, April 4

Changing Health Care: Mobile Technology

If you want to consider just how much mobile technology could change lives, consider how it might save lives. One company, ER Texting, is already experimenting with one possibility — providing information that can help parents make decisions on which emergency room to visit based on wait times.

The simple information-based service that taps mobile technology tracks current wait times at children's health care facilities. People who use the service merely have to send hospital text codes to 4 ER 411  and instantly receive the current wait times, hours of operation and direct contact information for participating hospitals.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center (CCHMC) and Miami Children's Hospital (MCH) are among some of the most recent hospitals to utilize these services. Since MCH implementation last May, more than 2,000 subscribers have used the service,

"When examining how to reach our patients and families, we knew we would have to meet them in the mobile space," said Kurt Myers, coordinator of community relations at CCHMC. "Providing an option to receive wait times via text was a logical first step into the mobile arena."

Not only does the service provide insight into wait times so parents might consider an alternate medical facility, but it also provides parents with expectations before they arrive. The service benefits the hospital with three locations too, helping control patient flow by increasing transparency.

Communication ought to augment the service, but the potential is limitless. 

Naturally, parents using the service shouldn't take to diagnosing life-threatening situations — adding additional minutes to their commute time to a hospital in life-threatening situations or opting to drive children who would be better off being transported by an ambulance — it still represents how technology can start to be used as a lifeline for medical purposes.

A few years ago, I was working with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and we would frequently discuss the far future of emergency medical services. While the iPhone was still in its fledgling phases by comparison, there was always interest in developing a 9-1-1 service that could incorporate mobile into everyday operations — including the use of video technologies to pre-diagnose when patients called (giving first responders a pre-assessment of the scene and giving hospitals more information before arrival).

The wait time text messaging service certainly expands upon that concept, driving future life-saving concepts toward two-way communication models. Perhaps one day, patients will be able to call 9-1-1 and receive emergency medical assessments and direction (including visual aids) before the ambulance arrives. Or, if medical transport isn't needed, which hospital would be best suited given wait times and specialties. Cool stuff.
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