Whiteboard App for Hospital Patients

Topic: Thoughts

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We've received a request from a nurse working with in-patients in a major US city. They've conceived the idea that leveraging modern technology could make patients' hospital stays much more comfortable.

Problem to Solve: Patients Eager for Answers

Nurses are keenly aware of a frequently voiced concern among hospital patients. They often struggle to acquire answers to the numerous questions they hold about their condition, treatment, schedule specifics, and everyday aspects of their hospital stay.

The plain whiteboards in patient rooms display just the basics. Patients frequently consider this information lacking. Moreover, they feel uneasy or dissatisfied with how the medical staff deals with their questions during daily hospital routines.

Conversely, the hospital administration could be interested in increasing their revenue by offering patients some extra services.

Idea: iPad App Instead of a Whiteboard

The customer has in mind a whiteboard app that provides patients with a multitude of valuable functions.

Here's what they would be capable of:

  • to explore educational materials regarding their condition;
  • to check schedule for upcoming procedures and appointments;
  • to reach out to nurses by sending messages and requests;
  • to adapt the room ambiance through control of lighting, humidifier, etc.
  • to arrange telemedicine appointments and take part in the sessions.

Idea Evaluation: There Are Gaps Here

After a close evaluation, developers discern several issues that require more attention.

Shouldn't We Worry About Sensitive Data?

Patients consider their health information as sensitive and have worries regarding its protection. Healthcare providers share similar concerns.

Furthermore, there are regulations that require security for patient identifying data and their health specifics. Particularly in the US, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is among these regulations, and any electronic system for storing medical information must be compliant with HIPAA standards.

This implies that developers need to establish safeguards that will restrict who can view and access patient health information within the app. For example, patients and medical staff will have to enter the password each time they log in to the app. Also, there's a requirement for extra protective measures to ensure that data isn't exposed to network providers, hackers, or unauthorized individuals who gain entry to the device.

Incorporating these functionalities will considerably add to the overall app development expenses.

How Will the Necessary Information Be Input Into the App?

Patients expect the app to deliver the information they desire, but how does it get there? We're faced with a choice between two alternatives.

First option: Data input and updates will be managed manually by the nurses.

In this scenario, it's important to think about the added workload that nurses will experience. Here's the essential data that should be inputted into the app for each patient:

  • patient's name and age;
  • patient's diagnosis;
  • schedule of procedures and appointments.

Besides, apart from managing data input and updates, the nurses will be required to guide patients on app usage and attend to messages sent by patients through the app.

Second option: The app will receive data from the hospital's EHR system.

Every hospital maintains an Electronic Health Record System (EHR), where the medical staff records all available information about each patient's condition and treatment. If the app gets integrated with the hospital's EHR, it can automatically access all necessary information - such as a patient's appointment schedule. As a result, nurses won't have to manually input the same data.

Considering this scenario, it's important to acknowledge that integrating the app with a certified EHR and incorporating all corresponding HIPAA safeguards will substantially prolong development timelines and raise costs. Also, given that each hospital has its own EHR system, it will be necessary to replicate this effort for every hospital the customer collaborates with.

Will the Hospital Administration Cooperate?

When it comes to offering additional services to hospital patients through the app, many concerns arise that cannot be resolved without the participation of the hospital administration.

A few examples are:

  • How can we assign nurses the additional responsibilities tied to using the app?
  • How can we compensate nurses for the increased workload?
  • How can we obtain the necessary authorization for sharing patient data through the app or gain entry to the hospital's electronic health records?
  • How should we go about controlling compliance with legal regulations for the protection of personal data?

Therefore, it might make sense to validate that future app features suit hospital management preferences before development planning.

Is There a Risk of the Telemedicine Feature Costing Too Much?

The customer believes that patients would appreciate the ability to consult with doctors remotely through the telemedicine app feature. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that developing this feature comes at a significant cost.

Engineers can lower these expenses by incorporating an off-the-shelf, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine solution. These solutions typically come equipped with appointment scheduling calendars and the video call functionality. Twilio Programmable Video is a viable option in this regard.

Still, even with the off-the-shelf solution, adjustments are required to tailor it to the hospital's specifics, such as particular workflows, payment methods, charges, and the like. This results in a notable addition to the overall app development cost.

Hence, it might make sense to double-check these additional costs in relation to the potential value the telemedicine feature could bring to hospital patients who are already under constant physician care.

Do Room Devices Support Remote Control?

Enabling remote control of room ambience through the app could enhance patient comfort. However, to achieve this, it's essential for the room's lighting systems, humidifiers, and other devices to support Bluetooth or API integration. It is sensible to gather specifics about each device currently in use before we begin planning app development.

To bring this feature to life, developers will need to implement a separate integration for each individual gadget. Therefore, the collected information will also provide us with an understanding of the potential workload.

Basic App Model: Concept to Build Upon

Developers have voiced concerns, and the answers are lacking yet. Additional research might be necessary for customers to decide on features whose ideas need further refinement. Nevertheless, right now we can outline the most basic solution that can be derived from the customer's vision.

Here's a potential scenario.

Once a patient is in their room, they're offered the option of having an iPad with the whiteboard app for an extra fee. If they are keen, the nurse gives them an iPad, adds the patient's name and diagnosis to the app, and demonstrates how to use it.

The app enables the patient to:

  • review educational content linked to their diagnosis;
  • jot down questions that the nurse will read later, right on the patient's iPad;
  • take note of upcoming appointments and procedures - this can be done by either the nurse or the patient themselves.

On a daily basis, nurses ensure the information is up-to-date and respond to patient questions. They are compensated for this additional effort through the app usage fee.

This scenario assumes that there is no server - all patient information is stored on the local device and erased after discharge. Moreover, access to the app is limited to a single user. Therefore, to protect personal health data, the iPad's built-in password feature will be enough.

What's Next?

We've completed the initial app idea evaluation, but it's merely the starting point of the app development journey.

Let's anticipate what lies ahead​​​​​​:

  • The customer will take into account developers' concerns and conduct further research to address gaps in the app concept. This will lead to identifying additional features to incorporate into the basic app model outlined above.

  • Developers will keep talking to the customer about proposed features until all uncertainties are addressed, and the team agrees on the solution to develop.

  • Developers will craft a development plan, offer budget estimates, and prepare an investor presentation outlining the business concept of the future project.

  • We're all set to begin the project!

Use the contact form below, and we'll showcase how it will play out for your application.

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