Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

Digital Health Tools Take the ‘Waiting’ Out of the Waiting Room

Using tablets, kiosks and even smart furniture, health systems across the country are connecting with their patients the moment they enter the hospital or clinic.

The waiting room is no longer a wasted opportunity.

Armed with tablets, kiosks and even smart furniture, healthcare providers are taking advantage of that time before the doctor’s appointment to gather registration and insurance information and even collect some vital signs. The goal is to bolster the patient’s medical record before the appointment, giving the doctor more information to work with and improving patient engagement.

Among the health systems using mHealth in the waiting room is NYU Langone Medical Center, which deployed tablets for patients of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health this past year, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, whose iPads feature an app designed by the hospital’s IT and clinical departments. Others are turning to kiosks developed by companies like Vecna Technologies, SoloHealth and HealthSpot.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, charged with providing healthcare services to a veteran population that usually doesn’t take kindly to waiting around, is also using mHealth. Two years ago the VA launched an ambitious project to install some 6,000 Vecna registration kiosks in busy clinics and hospitals around the country.

Last year the agency tested out a new mHealth platform: the smart chair.

The Vitals Chair, developed by Cambridge, Mass.-based Vecna Technologies, contains a weight scale, blood pressure cuff and thermometer, as well as an attached tablet that enables users to enter other information while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. The data collected is integrated with the health provider’s electronic medical record platform and an online portal.

"A business mantra we have is to change wait time into service time. The chairs create an opportunity to utilize some of that wait time," Mike Davis, director of the VA’s Veterans Point of Service program, told InformationWeek in 2014. "We debuted them in St. Louis at the VFW convention in July and had an overwhelming response. We had repeat customers every day and oftentimes lines to test-drive the chair and kiosks."

Patricia Dear, the VA’s senior project manager for the VPS Vitals Chair program, said the agency is considering using the chair in rural clinics and other public health settings. There’s also been some talk of partnering with the Department of Defense, the Indian Health Service and other federal agencies to place smart chairs in a number of different facilities.

In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Vecna Vice President Bill Donnell said the company is ready to market the Vitals Chair to healthcare providers. The company has a strong presence in the patient registration kiosk market, and just last year made news in developing mHealth platforms for use in Ebola-ravaged parts of Africa.

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