The digitization of health and medical data holds great promise in battling against an epidemic, but the key to success lies in the ability to get the right information to the right people at the right time.
It’s been all over the news: the misdiagnosis of what turned out to be the first case of the Ebola virus in the U.S. While debates are still occurring over the source of the process breakdown – whether it was human error or a flaw in the hospital’s EHR system – this episode has definitely shone a light on the role health IT can play in diagnosing and containing the spread of infectious diseases.
The digitization of health and medical data holds great promise in battling against an epidemic, but the key to success lies in the ability to get the right information to the right people at the right time. And a crucial enabler of this is the ability to transfer data across like and disparate systems and people through mobile technology.
One of the first methods of combating a widespread infection is communicating guidelines and protocols to doctors and patients as soon as possible. Technology can be used to help disseminate pertinent information quickly, via patient portals, general websites, email and even social media.
Secondly, doctors can use tablets and other mobile devices to get fast access to EHRs and real-time patient information, even when not in the office, to monitor a patient’s critical health status. Remote monitoring and video conferencing technologies enable doctors to meet patients where they are, breaking down barriers of time and distance, so that a base level of care can be provided even if the patient is unable to get to the nearest major health facility.
And of course, there’s the EHR itself. When trying to control an outbreak, seconds count. Systems need to operate at peak performance, and not be slowed down by legacy networks that don’t have the capacity to support mission-critical applications, especially when accessed from remote clinics and doctors on-the-go. In addition, EHR data capture processes should ensure that the amount of manual data that doctors have to enter is minimized. Electronic templates can help ensure that the right infection-related information can be entered quickly, in a standardized format, from multiple input methods, both on site and remotely.
For healthcare organizations to realize the promise of data mobility to aid with infection control, they need to take a hard look at their internal data networks in supporting the bandwidth demands placed upon them. Many organizations find that their existing technology infrastructures aren’t optimized for handling and storing the vast amounts of data being generated from multiple applications and mobile devices. That’s why it’s imperative for organizations to adopt a unified, scalable and secure high-performance network that enables continuity of care across multiple locations.