Today’s medical specialists have a full plate, often managing large volumes of complex patients and splitting their day between the office and the hospital. To make the most efficient use of time, many practitioners are turning to mobile technology to provide ready access to key patient information, allowing the physician to complete critical tasks anytime, anywhere.

For example, using certain mobile applications, physicians can remotely access elements of a patient’s medical record, see a snapshot of the last visit, and/or review test results, allowing the specialist to answer patient questions, make notes, and collaborate with colleagues on the fly. Similarly, mobile tools can help with dictation, letting physicians do their work anywhere, without having to sit in front of a computer.

Although mobile solutions can benefit a specialty practice, all apps are not equally appropriate, and a practice should be intentional about selection and implementation. A few things to keep in mind before embracing a new mHealth tool include:

  • Carefully assess the potential solution. Even though you can download a mobile app with a quick screen tap, you should first commit to thoroughly reviewing the prospective tool to ensure it supports the practice’s goals. As part of this evaluation, practice managers may want to talk with colleagues and read reviews, figuring out how the app works in the real world. Clinicians should also seek feedback from their peers to make sure the tool has the necessary clinical “chops” to support the particular specialty. Some solutions may offer a trial period or the opportunity for beta testing. This can be a good way to try out the app with little risk.
  • Make sure it plays well with others. Before downloading an app, you should also confirm it will integrate with your EHR and other information technology. While third-party tools can be attractive, solutions from your EHR vendor can sometimes integrate more seamlessly with existing technology and offer greater functionality. If you do opt to go the third-party route, make certain you fully understand the costs involved in interfacing the tool with current software.
  • Confirm that staff knows how to use it.  Although mobile technology tends to be intuitive, you should still provide user training, even if it is only a brief presentation during a staff meeting. This ensures everyone can interact with the app correctly and consistently—a key step in getting the most out of the tool.

Committing to a “look before you leap” mHealth philosophy is the smart way to reap the many benefits this technology has to offer. As the mobile market continues to expand, it will become even more important for specialty practices to have a strategic approach to on-boarding new solutions. The bottom line: you should view implementation in the same way as any other comprehensive technology initiative—aim to mitigate risk while optimizing the tool’s performance.