Tomah VA Medical Center
Tomah VA uses mobile technology to enhance care
As a hospitalist at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin, Dr. Sarah Niles’s 13 to 14-hour days are spent on the move within the hospital, which consists of a series of buildings connected by walkways. Depending on where she begins and where she is headed, it can take her anywhere from a few minutes to 15 minutes to walk to her next destination. For her, a mobile device provides the flexibility to be connected even when she’s on the move.
In July 2014, Niles received an iPad as part of the VA Mobile Health Provider Program, an effort to provide VA health care teams with mobile devices to enhance the way they deliver care. The mobile devices are equipped with access to VA email, the VA App Catalog, commercial mHealth apps available through the Apple App Store, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) capabilities to access information in the medical center as well as off-site.
Although Niles has only been a part of the Mobile Health Provider Program for a few months, she has already found real value in her mobile device.
“I have found the iPad very useful,” she said. “For example, if I’m bedside with a patient who is not stable and I don’t want to leave them, I can now use my iPad to place orders directly to the laboratory, radiology or pharmacy.”
Previously, Niles had to leave the patient’s bedside and walk to a computer work station to place these orders. If instant orders were needed for a critically ill patient, she would have to give the nurse a verbal order. Thanks to the mobile technology she can remain at the patient’s bedside and send the order request directly to the appropriate department.
“Sending real-time orders through the iPads improves communication and patient safety because it reduces the risk of verbal order errors, and the laboratory, radiology, and pharmacy know exactly what is needed,” said Niles. “This enables the treatment team to accurately begin preparing the needed studies or medications for faster results.”
The Tomah VA is among 18 sites to receive mobile devices through this program. In total, more than 7,000 VHA providers and staff have begun incorporating mobile devices into their clinical practice. As the Mobile Health Provider Program continues to evolve, so do the opportunities to integrate mobile technology into enhanced care delivery.
For more information on the Mobile Health Provider Program, please visit: https://mobilehealth.va.gov/providers.