Despite old saws about “ivory towers of academia,” technology flourishes best with developers who are fully aware of real-world challenges and urgent societal problems. The rapid and significant developments in mobile communications during the past 15 years coincided with the U.S. healthcare system’s equally dramatic cost increases and global effectiveness ranking slippage. Mobile communications didn’t cause America’s healthcare crisis and cannot by itself solve all the problems and answer all the challenges. However, technology is one of the most powerful weapons in the struggle to control costs while improving healthcare.

Spok recently published its eighth annual report, Mobile Strategies in Healthcare, Results Revealed. Spok surveys professionals to uncover trends, highlight emerging technologies, and help hospitals and other healthcare organizations assess their implementations. The Spok report is based on surveys from more than 300 health care professionals from organizations of all sizes. The value of mobile devices directly correlates with how they improve workflow and address caregiver needs. Mobile strategies are just becoming a common feature. Just more than half of the hospitals surveyed have a mobile strategy in place, and the majority of those have only had one for three years or less. As might be expected, communications is the primary goal for nearly half of the programs. Smartphones and WiFi phones are the most common devices supported, at significantly rates than the pagers (in-house and wide-area) that have been in steady decline in recent years. The biggest concern reported is WiFi coverage, which was cited by half the respondents as a challenge for mobile device usage. One of the more surprising results is that only 2 out of 5 hospitals report having a secure texting system in place. Given concerns about data privacy and HIPAA compliance combined with the fact that many staff prefer using text messaging, expect to see more hospitals adding this feature.

Researchers, developers, organizations, and investors assessing opportunities to address challenges and solve healthcare problems with mobile communications would do well to study the Spok report.