“Touch” Computing: Humanizing Patient – Doctor Interactions
Just as a mother’s touch brings comfort to a child in distress, or a friendly fist bump communicates a special kinship between colleagues, similarly “touch” mobile devices offer hope for humanizing how patients and doctors connect and interact within a health care setting.
In a SlideShare presentation titled, “Discover Ways Clinicians Are Using Touch Computing to Improve Health Care,” Intel’s IT Center makes a compelling case for using smartphones, iPads and other ‘ultramobile’ touch devices to enhance communication between doctors and patients:
“When doctors and patients discuss information over a touch device—with no physical barrier—such as a laptop screen between them—-both are more engaged in the moment. This enhanced engagement leads to more fruitful interactions between patient and physician.”
The New Normal
Patients are becoming accustomed to using touch devices while in the doctor’s office. More than half of respondents to a 2013 survey on mHealth nominated mobility in healthcare as a top trend. This mHealth expansion is easily linked to the unprecedented spread of mobile technologies, as well as advancements in their application to address health priorities.
Fueled by health care reform and emerging industry regulations, healthcare needs to maximize productivity. And operating systems, such as iOS, Android, and Windows 8/8.1, support touch computing and health applications.
Expect to see more patients discussing health matters with their physician over a tablet or other touch device. These technologies allow patients and physicians to engage in shared content simply by touching images on a screen. Using a touch screen is clearly less obtrusive than interrupting the process to use the mouse or enter keystrokes.
Think about it. Touching follows the natural human tendency to look at an object, reach for it, and then handle or touch it. Touch is intuitive. There’s no need to learn how to use a keyboard or navigate a hard-to maneuver mouse. Smartphones, iPads, tablets and other touch devices don’t require motor skills.
Touch fits nicely into the health care model. And when combined with voice, gesture and visual to interact with computing devices, patients have flexible choices in how they connect with their health care provider.
Touch Offers Promise for Communities of Color
A recent Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project study reported that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to own a mobile phone than whites, and they also outpace whites in mobile app use.
In addition, more minorities take advantage of data applications—often using touch screens—on their phones, using a wider range of phone features than whites.
This growing use of mobile technology has encouraging possibilities for using touch computing to strengthen interactions between patients of color and the health care system.
How Clinicians Use Touch
Touch is also becoming the new normal for how clinicians share information among one another. Among physicians who use both EHRs and mobile devices (or tablets), the most common activities performed are:
· Sending/receiving email and accessing the EHR;
· Using touch-enabled devices to communicate diagnostic results;
· Using a touch device when making rounds because it provides ready access to patient chart and research information, offering a high level of functionality and security;
· Conducting on-the-fly consultations;
· Using touch to enhance their ability to view and respond to diagnostic images;
· Engaging touch devices as a convenient way to update patient notes.
Some health care systems are also using touch devices to streamline communications with nursing staff.
These devices and applications allow doctors to do more with less. For example, by using Snap mode in Windows 8—and now, Windows 8.1—a physician has the ability to run two different applications on the screen at the same time, without the need to flip back and forth between screens.
Investment Increasing in Touch Technology
Software development will continue to drive the adoption of touch in healthcare and other business settings. With the release of Windows 8/8.1, touch computing has jumped from the tablet to the PC. As healthcare integrates touch into PC environments, adoption will continue to rise.
The rise of IT solutions that are specific to the needs of both mobile consumers and health care workforces is making it easier for health IT professionals to support devices in the field, where touch is playing an increasingly significant role.
As technologies evolve, so do solutions. Who knows, perhaps the “next big thing” will be touch technology in the health care marketplace. What do you think?
Image Credit: iStockphoto