MGMA senior editor, Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM, recently spoke with Randy Tomlin, Chairman and CEO of MobileSmith. Tomlin sat down to discuss how he plans to improve the healthcare system through his new role at MobileSmith. His plans start with focusing on the operations that can help improve healthcare in the United States and “Mobile’s got a clear answer to that.”
Q: You’ve been in technology throughout your career, you spent time at AT&T, 30 plus years, talk about what you were involved in there from a technology standpoint and what the technology life cycle is in communications v. healthcare.
A: If we are looking at telecommunications, when we first started, there was nothing as such as an iPhone, and today, it’s ubiquitous across the world. So, you can see the, changes happen in a very short period.
If you got a truck that came to your home or business with AT&T, I ran that organization, we had 34,000 technicians across the country. We put them onto a mobile application that allowed them to go and meeting customers. We improved things like we went from two job a day to three to four jobs to improve productivity.
Q: So, you’re in the telecommunications industry, you’ve kind of got to be at the cutting edge of what’s going on in mobile communication with your customers. When was this happening is this the early 2000s, the 1990s, when were you seeing this take place?
A: I would say most of this happened, really in the late 90s, first part of 2000. I would say in that 10-year bit of time from 2000 to 2010, 2012 the telecommunications industry consolidated a lot. Things like Facebook were born [bringing] a real, large, interconnected communications industry that was transformed from the way it was even 15 years ago.
Q: Now in 2016, you made the move to MobileSmith. That’s after 34 years with AT&T, what excited you about the company and the work it was doing?
A: So, I think there’s a lot in our name, right? We’re mobile i.e. we do mobile applications for healthcare. We’re Smiths i.e. we build things. Now what exited me, [was] we’re in Raleigh, North Carolina, a really rich base for technical talent. When I looked at the company we have a very, very strong development force. We write native iOS, we write Android, and we have access to things as in cloud, we run on Amazon’s cloud. Number three, we were already in 60+ hospitals. So, we had a base of understanding healthcare.
Q: When we think about it from the healthcare perspective, where are we in the app product lifecycle? I mean, what is the current state? And what is the future here in healthcare?
A: I think we’re in the absolute beginning of it, which is a good space for everybody. All the hospitals have now spent the money to put in the EMR systems. But, more of the work that’s been done on that, to get the data into the 47+ hundred hospitals in the United States, has been mainly nurse and provider focused.
I go back to the 330 million Americans that are consuming healthcare, we’ve not yet connected them into the space. I think where we’re at is these EMR companies are opening up access to be able to write to them. We can do that today, so that a patient can have a full interactive [experience] in the hospital. That’s where Mobile comes in.
Mobile keeps the patient connected in a real time space 30 days before the surgery and 30 days after the surgery to make it so the success of that surgery becomes real and we don’t have readmissions and cost drivers for the patients.
Q: I remember with Steve Jobs made some addresses to the consumers back in 2008/2009 and he had that phrase, “well, there’s an app for that.” What about in the healthcare mobile app space? Is there an app for that? What are you excited about- the apps that have been developed, and the ones that are still to come?
A: So, the ones that have been developed today, for the most part, are those that do navigation too and from or within hospitals. There have been apps developed, again, for the providers and the nurses within the hospitals to improve operations.
The ones to come, though, are these patient engagement apps. Ours that we talked about, is a perioperative app. What we need is to be able to connect those 15,000 patients [getting surgery] on a real time basis through that experience that’s 30 minutes in the hospital, but 30 days before preparation, 30 days after recovery and tie that in real time. Those are the apps that are going to be coming now, that begin to improve outcomes and dramatically change cost of providing health care.
Q: What are the biggest barriers to adoption right now?
A: Educating the hospital provider space on how to use operation technology. Every industry went through this, the bank industry went through this, the airline industry went through this. It’s a seven- or eight-year journey through the process.
I think another really exciting space is to be able to attach rural to the urban areas with real time medical information via communications via app technology so that you don’t have to drive the 45 minutes from a rural environment to get a diagnosis.
Q: Now you’re describing so many cool things and accessible things that are being done to monitor our health, their ways to access your patient record. But what’s being done to protect the patient privacy, are we doing enough in that regard?
A: I don’t think you can every do enough, and if anybody tells you they are doing enough, then they’re not doing the right things. The most secure environment you can run to is move to a cloud. I know that’s many times a leap for these hospitals, but the most secure environment we have today is on the cloud type environments.
If you’re dealing with anybody, they should be at least a soft two type compliant, we’re soft two compliant, we’ve had it review, it takes over a year to review the data to make sure that all of the information is secure.
Q: I was watching an interview with you that you’ve conducted this past spring, you were talking about how mobile technology allows the patient to be engaged to, what you called, “clear the red dots on their phones” to prepare for surgery. What did you mean by that? And how do mobile apps help in patient engagement?
A: If you look at your phone right now, and I pull mine up, and… I have an iPhone, I can have an Android, and I’m looking at it and I have apps and I have red dots. If I have a dot on an application, I know to touch that and open it up. It tells me I need to do something, in the case of a perioperative app that we do, it might tell you that today I need to do a certain exercise in preparation for the upcoming surgery.
I simply do that exercise, I clear that red dot, I feel good about it, there’s no longer red on my screen and I feel like “okay, I’m in good shape for now, because I’ve cleared all the red dots.”
It’s a very simple, understandable interface that mobile technology uses that you’re already familiar with. We simply then take the pathways, the clinical pathways that these hospitals [are] using, translate them to were they’re consumable on the mobile phone, you give the patient a series of red dots that they need to do before they get to the surgery.
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share regarding mobile apps and how they can improve healthcare patient engagement, physician and nurse’s interaction with patients?
A: We’re in healthcare because we believe healthcare can improve. United States spends approximately 14% of GDP on healthcare, again, the closest country is 7%, and we’re not twice as good.
Operations and involving 330 million Americans in our real time environment with our wonderful providers…engaging those two together will overall improve those results.
Mobile is a tool inside of that, that will help that change, reduce the costs and improve healthcare for everyone.
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