Doctors and nurses at Yale-New Haven Hospital will soon be able to stay abreast of their patients’ treatment wherever they are, thanks to a smartphone app that is quietly transforming patient care.

Last week, the Yale-New Haven Health System reached an agreement with smartphone clinical communications provider Mobile Heartbeat to license its MH-CURE (Mobile Heartbeat Clinical Urgent Response) application for use in all facilities under the YNHHS network. MH-CURE will streamline communication between doctors and nurses and allow them to securely access patient data using the smartphones they carry. Doctors will download the app on their own smartphones while nurses and other healthcare staff will swipe in for shared hospital units when they report for duty.

“We envision the smartphone platform to be the workstation of the future,” said Edward Fisher, vice president and chief technology officer of YNHH.

Communication between healthcare staff has been a long-standing challenge because physicians and nurses are frequently busy, and the team that cares for each patient changes as different doctors are brought onto the case, Fisher said. According to Ron Remy, CEO of Mobile Heartbeat, MH-CURE solves this problem by allowing each member to identify who else is on the team, see whether they are available to talk and call or text them — “with just one click.”

Jason Malia, assistant manager in the Pediatric Emergency Department at YNHH, one of the departments where pilot trials were conducted, said MH-CURE has had a huge impact on facilitating communication. He added that because staff can now contact each other without paging every single room using the overhead speaker system, the app has created a quieter environment and improved the patient experience.

The app also provides doctors with access to patient electronic medical records from any location, without having to find a workstation, said Fisher. It alerts doctors when test reports become available, and sends alarms to doctors when their patients’ conditions deteriorate. 

“It’s essentially a Swiss Army knife,” said Dr. Allen Hsiao, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine and chief medical information officer at YNHH. Mobile Heartbeat has added new features in response to the hospital’s needs, and more can be added as additional demands come to light, he added.

Remy emphasized that the security of the app was a top concern for the company, and that there are multiple layers of security built in. Access to the app requires a password, and all patient data is deleted from the device when the app is closed. Communications between smartphones and the servers are encrypted, and photos taken using the app — like those taken during a surgical procedure — are stored on a secure database instead of on the phone.

“Yale has given us a lot of guidance as to how our product should look, feel and work,” Remy said. Mobile Heartbeat already provides a similar app for other clients, including the Hospital Corporation of America, the largest for-profit operator of healthcare facilities in the world.

YNHHS plans to roll out MH-CURE across its facilities over the next two years, Fisher said. While YNHHS administrators and Remy did not disclose the exact value of the agreement, Remy said the cost of running the app per clinician was similar to the cost of a cell phone data plan. Fisher added that YNHHS has agreed to license over 4,000 installations of the app and plans to purchase iPhone 5Cs for the shared hospital units, which nurses and other healthcare staff use.

Eventually, Hsiao hopes that MH-CURE will also reach the hands of physicians outside of YNHHS, so that primary care physicians will be able to communicate with and give advice to inpatient teams.

Facilities under the YNHHS network include the YNHH, Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital and the Yale-New Haven Hospital Saint Raphael Campus.