As the health care industry adopts anytime, anywhere "pervasive computing," clinical mobility is placing demands on IT infrastructure, according to IDC in its report "Business Strategy: U.S. Clinical Mobility 2011-2016—Forecast and Analysis," released on July 23.
Clinical mobility spending is expected to grow from $2.9 billion in 2011 to $5.4 billion in 2016, which is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.7 percent, compared with an overall CAGR for health care IT spending of 8.6 percent from 2011 to 2016.
The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend will bring new challenges for security and networking, Lynne Dunbrack, program director for IDC Health Insights, told eWEEK.
"There are many examples of physicians and clinicians used to using tablets and mobile phones in their personal life," said Dunbrack, explaining how these medical professionals also want to use the devices to access clinical information systems.
"When you look at the demands for pervasive computing, physicians can access patient data anywhere, so we need a network that supports that," Dunbrack said. "They want that accessibility to be 24/7."
High-performance networking, delays and latencies will challenge IT departments as mobile adoption picks up, according to Dunbrack.
"Now with more demands for streaming video for patient education, video conferencing, for transforming large medical images, performance really becomes key for them in being able to use this as an effective tool," she said.
As clinicians need to be connected all the time, IT departments must deliver secure and reliable connectivity, support the mobile devices and provide software updates, Dunbrack said.
With BYOD, "hospitals and physician practices aren't paying for tablets and devices, but it does increase the amount that they have to spend on things like security and being able to manage the applications across what could be a diverse set of endpoints," Dunbrack said.
As clinicians access health data from multiple endpoints, cloud computing will make this access possible on mobile devices, Dunbrack noted.
Although health care has been slow to move to the cloud, the formation of accountable care organizations under the Affordable Care Act brings a need for data to be accessible in the cloud to bring data to multiple data sources and perform analytics on the data, she said.
In addition, privacy regulations are now more stringent under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires a greater investment in security infrastructure.
Another concern for health IT departments is the possibility of health data being sent in the clear using native texting rather than a secure messaging service such as TigerText.
IDC also expects the federal government's meaningful-use incentive program to accelerate the use of clinical mobility in applications such as electronic health records (EHRs), e-prescribing, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and health information exchanges (HIEs).
Doctors also use mobile devices to order X-rays and lab work, Dunbrack noted. On tablets, doctors can hold telehealth sessions by initiating a secure video chat with peers, she said.
Factors affecting the adoption of mobile technology in health care include consumerization of technology as well as the increased availability of health information as clinicians look to access patient data on mobile devices during office visits, IDC reported.