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Emergency patients lukewarm about mobile technologies

Tristan Manalac
09 Jan 2020
The study found that patients of sepsis were less likely to receive antibiotics immediately, especially when the emergency department was overcrowded.

Many patients admitted to the emergency department (ED) remain uncomfortable with the use of mobile technologies (MTs), a recent Singapore study has shown.

“Developments in information technology (IT) have driven a push in healthcare innovation, with IT being used in multiple areas of healthcare delivery including documentation, appointment reminders and teleconsultation,” said researchers. The present study sought to contribute to the implementation of IT in healthcare by filling in existing gaps in knowledge.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis on 498 participants, most of whom were ED patients (60 percent; n=299; mean age, 50.8±15.41 years; 55.5 percent male). The remaining 40 percent (n=199; mean age, 45.6±19.34 years; 45.5 percent male) were caregivers. Almost all (94.4 percent; n=470) owned a mobile phone, though only 76.1 percent (n=378) had smartphones. [World J Emerg Med 2020:11:5-11]

Only 71.1 percent (n=352) of the participants felt comfortable with sending information over MTs, while 71.3 percent (n=354) reported being okay with receiving information. Fewer were comfortable doing so using English (64.2 percent; n=317).

A distinct age pattern in comfort with MT use emerged. Younger participants were much more likely to be comfortable with IT in acute healthcare than their older counterparts. For instance, 94.6 percent of the 21–40-year age-group were comfortable with sending information over mobile devices, and slightly fewer (93.5 percent) were okay with receiving information through the same channels; 84.7 percent were fine with doing so in English.

In comparison, only 34.0 percent and 37.2 percent of participants older than 60 years were comfortable with these respective modes of information exchange. Fewer, still, were comfortable with sharing information in English.

Notably, caregivers were also consistently more comfortable than their patients with using MT, whether it be for sending (86.3 percent vs 60.9 percent) or receiving (85.9 percent vs 61.8 percent) information, regardless of language (English: 82.3 percent vs 52.1 percent).

Logistic regression analysis confirmed these trends. Being a caregiver and younger than 60 years were significantly associated with greater comfort in using MTs, as were having a tertiary education, owning a mobile phone, having complete access to the internet, and being able to read and write in English (p=0.001 for all).

“The authors believe that with time, the educational levels, usage of IT and English literacy will increase globally. However, such demographic shifts may take years,” the researchers said. “In order to increase the participation in such innovations, we believe the participation of caregivers needs to be incorporated into the design and implementation of MT so that caregivers can assist patients in using such technology.”

These may include features that allow caregivers access to the technology interface, modules that may help caregivers assist the patients in using these devices and features that protect the patients’ privacy.

“Our findings give us a snapshot of the current demographic of users of the ED and offer some insight into their technology usage. Developers of MT targeting the ED should take these findings into consideration,” said the researchers.

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