In the survey of 240 Vitera customers--most of them office-based physicians--72% said they used mobile devices in healthcare. For the most part, the respondents said they used their smartphones, iPads, and other tablets to communicate with other staff members or to do medical research; only six percent of them were using mobile devices to connect to EHRs or do electronic prescribing. Yet 91% of the physician respondents said they'd be interested in a mobile EHR solution.
"We're living in an era of technology adoption and convergence, and people expect to be able to access information anytime, anywhere," explained Matthew Hawkins, CEO of Vitera, the successor of Sage Software, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "So there's a general expectation that people should be able to work from any location. Physicians want access to the EHR and the patient information wherever they are because that's where they're providing care."
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The key features that the surveyed physicians desired in a mobile application were the ability to review and update a patient's chart and order prescriptions. In addition, most of the respondents wanted to be able to document patient encounters.
The most popular devices among the respondents were iPhones (60%), iPads (45%), and Android phones (38%).
Vitera is working on its own mobile EHR solution, which it plans to debut in October, said Hawkins. While the application will be designed for the iPad, he said, physicians will also be able to use it on their iPhones, with Android and Windows platforms to follow.
Hawkins admitted that it's difficult to use an EHR on an iPhone because of the device's small screen size. But he said that after Vitera learns from its iPad experience, it will optimize the mobile EHR features for smartphones.
In developing the iPad-native solution, he noted, Vitera has focused on rendering the information in a way that optimizes the use of the touchscreen and makes it easy for clinicians to move from one part of the chart to another.
"We're focusing on the core pieces of functionality that physicians want to use the most in a mobile setting. We're not trying to completely replicate the [desktop version of the] EHR."
In the initial release, he said, physicians will be able to review and update charts, assign tasks, and send messages to practice staff. Later, Vitera will add lab and prescription ordering and documentation of patient encounters.
Vitera's approach is somewhat different from that of eClinicalWorks (eCW), which is expected to launch its iPad-native EHR in a few weeks. In a presentation at the 2011 eCW user conference, company president Girish Navani demonstrated the mobile app, which he said provides all of the functions found in eCW's cloud-based EHR.
While entering data on a mobile device is challenging because of the touchscreen and the relatively small onscreen keyboard, Navani showed how one can use the touchscreen to type a few letters and bring up the desired term within a particular field. In addition, he made it look easy to move from one area of the chart to another and to view certain screens more easily by changing their orientation.
In April, Allscripts bowed its Wand application, which it called "a unique, native iPad application that extends the most commonly used functions of Allscripts Professional and Enterprise [EHR] solutions." These include the ability to review charts, to input vital signs and medications, and to access EHR information after hours.
While other EHR vendors also offer mobile solutions, most appear to be remote or Web-based applications that replicate their desktop EHR software.