Consumers love their iPads and smartphones, and research indicates doctors do, too. A recent study by KLAS, titled "Mobile Healthcare Applications: Can Enterprise Vendors Keep Up?" revealed that the mobile wave is surging. Seventy percent of healthcare providers claim that they are using smartphones and tablets to access their clinical software. The respondents included physicians, CIOs, IT directors, IT managers and other C-level executives.
The ability to access patient records and prescribe medications via an iPad or smartphone anytime, anywhere, is a huge plus for physicians and is changing the way they practice medicine. But as with any new technology, there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out. For instance, the KLAS study cited usability, documentation and missing information among the weaknesses of mobile technology. "[Clinicians] like flexibility, they like being able to see the data. What they're cautious about is making sure that all the data is present, not just pieces of it," said Erik Westerlind, research director at KLAS and lead author of the Mobile Healthcare Applications study.
End users want apps on a mobile device to be functional. "When I think of mobile I think more of tablets. Phones ... can use data but it's such a small screen that you have to be careful because you have to be able to see the appropriate data about the patient," said Westerlind.
"Most of our clients have experimented with remote desktop on an iPad where they're trying to run their full EHR literally in their iPad," said Stanley Crane, chief innovation officer for Allscripts. That meets with predictable success, Crane said, and it works well for some people who say it is fine in an emergency. "So if you're an administrator and you have to reset somebody's password at the soccer game you can do it. But it's not something you'd want to do all day, every day."
On the other hand, Allscripts customer Lennox Hoyte, MD, a Florida-based urogynecologist, said that the vendor's iPhone/iPad version is a view into the EHR that allows docs to very quickly access patient information. "It's a direct connect to the database and it doesn't go through all of the usual database querying mechanisms," said Hoyte, who added that direct access to the database is quite fast.
Sally Ginsburg, MD, a Massachusetts-based pediatrician, has been using Athenahealth's mobile app on both the iPhone and iPad platforms for about a year. "I can retrieve visits, patient caseload notes, write prescriptions, as well as email from the iPhone and iPad. It allows me to give better patient care because I can respond to things in a way I couldn't before." Another plus, said Ginsburg, is that when she's on a call she has access to information specific to the patient. "I'm not flying by the seat of my pants asking them what their allergies are or what medications they are on or what illnesses they have. I have that all in front of me."
Dr. Ginsburg said that mobile EHRs save healthcare dollars because they save time. "Time costs money whether it's clerical staff on one end or medical clinical staff on the other. I think it makes a big difference for us that we can do things more efficiently and I think it decreases doctor time too."
The KLAS study also revealed that Apple dominates the mobile EHR market with 94% of organizations saying that they use Apple products and support the Apple operating system. Nevertheless, Google's Android and Microsoft have made inroads in the market with 49% and 44% of organizations supporting those platforms, respectively.
Westerlind said that the problem with Android is that its operating system is open source and each device has a different version of Android. "So it interacts differently with each device, it's more complex to use, but Android will continue to grow."
Take a look at nine popular mobile EHR programs and see which ones match your needs.