Health communications tools

In the unique environment that is healthcare, personal mobile devices are simply not good enough to provide what can be a life and death service; specialised solutions are required.

Johannesburg, 26 Feb 2019
Read time 3min 50sec
Quentin Daffarn, MD, UC Wireless.
Quentin Daffarn, MD, UC Wireless.

There is a right time and place for everything, and, while a corporate environment might be well suited to having employees use their personal devices for work purposes, in some specialised industries, the exact opposite is true.

Take healthcare, for example, suggests Quentin Daffarn, MD of UC-Wireless. While the use of mobile devices will undoubtedly improve the efficiency of care delivery in an environment that is an inherently mobile service, the bring your own device (BYOD) principle may not work effectively.

Mobile solutions that are specifically designed for healthcare offer enhanced management features that provide reliable, consistent and secure communication throughout the environment, be it an elderly care facility, healthcare clinic, hospital or even in an operating room or radiology lab.

"More crucially, unlike consumer smartphones, clinical mobile solutions are designed for patient care environments that inevitably have their own unique operational, compatibility, hygiene, robustness and security requirements," he explains.

"Unlike consumer grade mobile devices, which lie at the heart of BYOD, purpose-built, in-building mobile devices are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of mobile knowledge workers in vertical industries like healthcare. These design features include excellent voice quality over in-building WiFi and digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) wireless networks. They offer extensive battery life with easily replaceable batteries, and a design that incorporates military grade drop specifications, making them extremely tough." Seamless integration to healthcare systems and bar code scanning is very important.

There are many other challenges to using consumer devices in the healthcare environment too, he adds, pointing to issues of privacy and security, where using a personal device to view and exchange patient health information is far too risky to hospital compliance and patient privacy, and integration and management.

With the latter, effective IT support is a major challenge for BYOD environments, and the majority of hospitals don't have dedicated, knowledgeable help desk personnel to support consumer smartphone use, especially given the number of models, operating systems and varying ages of phones, to name a few challenges.

"Another challenge is that of call and phone quality. Getting critical test results to the right person on time may appear easy, unless you work in a chaotic healthcare environment. Remember that clinical workers have zero tolerance for dropped calls when the conversation they are having may quite literally be a matter of life and death.

"Another issue is that of total cost of ownership (TCO). Consumer-grade BYOD device failure rates in healthcare settings are incredibly high, with more than 20% failing within a year and total lifespan sitting at between one and two years, compared to the three- to five-year expected lifespan of a purpose-built mobile communications device."

When one adds in issues like increased compliance, financial pressures and staff shortages, he says, is it any wonder that senior healthcare management seek out more robust health IT and telecoms solutions, as these will more likely help to increase productivity, efficiency and auditable patient service.

It is with productivity and efficiency that these specifically designed devices really come into their own, continues Daffarn. Not only do these devices provide for better and clearer communication, they deliver long talk time and standby time. Also, he adds, it should be remembered that a device that is capable of handling the shift durations undertaken by healthcare personnel is priceless, while the benefits of simply being able to hand over the device to the next shift worker, something that could not be done with a personal device, is equally beneficial.

"The healthcare environment demands a device that is fit for purpose, that has a ruggedised design to withstand bumps, drops and harsh cleaning agents, and is designed to be there far longer than the standard 18-24-month lifespan of a consumer device."

"With a focus on patient-centred care and value-based reimbursement, healthcare providers are constantly searching for solutions that move the needle on patient outcomes and satisfaction. Purpose-built clinical mobile devices are one of the answers, helping as they do to improve communication among care team members, accelerate patient response times and ultimately to provide a more personal connection between clinicians and their patients," concludes Daffarn.

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