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Sometimes we get so focused on the “now” that we forget to look back. It’s a bit like this with electronic health records: The focus tends to be more on the challenges than on the benefits.
Sometimes we get so focused on the “now” that we forget to look back. It’s a bit like this with electronic health records (EHRs): The focus tends to be more on the challenges than on the benefits.
This is just as true for mobile EHRs, which provide a lot of flexibility, but many physicians feel simply aren’t robust enough.
A 2012 survey from Becker’s Orthopedic and Spine found that 91% of physicians were interested in mobile EHRs. A corresponding Black Book Rankings study showed that only about 1% felt they were maximizing use of their mobile clinical and business applications.
There are two key reasons for increased interest: mobile EHRs achieving relative parity with desktop applications and a growing familiarity with mobile devices.
According to healthcare marketing firm MedData Group, two-thirds of physicians now use mobile devices in their practice, and the majority cite reducing costs and saving time as the reasons.
It’s easy to forget how far we have come, and how improvements in mobile technology now happen exponentially. In the early days of mobile, the device was the size of a VHS cassette with a battery life of a few hours. Wireless connectivity was sporadic at best, and generally very frustrating.
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Today, you can get your patient schedule on an Apple Watch with a long-lasting power supply. There are a wide range of powerful, user-friendly tablets, smartphones and other devices available to providers. Where once you could only view a schedule or check off a task, now you can complete almost any task on a mobile device from documentation to e-prescribing. These comparable capabilities are really what providers have been waiting for.
The other key piece in this shift to increasing mobile use is that most of us now use mobile devices in our personal lives. A few years ago, bringing a doctor up to speed on a mobile EHR required as much training as a traditional EHR. Today, not only do many providers use a mobile device personally, but vendors have realized that to be successful they can’t simply slap a mobile face on desktop application. Mobile has unique functions like the touchscreen and the design needs to leverage these and work like other mobile applications.
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As vendors have realized this and shifted their design approach, they are able to truly begin to achieve parity with desktop EHRs. This has allowed providers to leverage their existing knowledge of the way these devices work to streamline tasks and improve efficiency.
The shift to a truly native mobile EHR and the growing comfort providers feel with mobile devices explains why mobile EHR users have fewer challenges now in learning how to use an EHR. One study, conducted by AmericanEHR, a website where physicians share EHR feedback, showed that 77% of physicians who use a tablet device to access their EHR are very or somewhat satisfied with the device.
Aldo Scopelliti, MD, clinical director at Jersey Shore Regional Center for Vertigo, Dizziness, Dystonia, TBI/Concussion and ADD ADHD in Long Branch, New Jersey, says he finds his mobile EHR very useful, and that both his staff and patients respond well to it.
“I carry my iPad with me and often use it to quick reference labs with patients-I just pull it out and we look at bloodwork, discuss an MRI or review whatever testing I’ve done,” he says. “Sometimes, we’ll review notes and treatment plans on it. My assistant also uses it when she takes vitals and enters the data there. The easy access through the iPad has made everyone at our office more efficient.”
As mobile EHRs take full advantage of native touch interfaces, voice input, camera input and other features, providers can do more and do it faster than they could with desktop EHRs. In addition, the combination of lightweight devices and patient education software modules allow providers to share images and video in the exam room to help inform and advise patients, something Scopelliti says his patients appreciate.
The industry is moving beyond the hand-held device. Vendors are testing other options, like the Apple Watch. The watch can notify the provider using its unique tactile buzzer if he or she is running late. Providers can also use the watch to reset their queue to keep patients informed or allow available staff to fill in and keep the schedule running on time.
In the future, mobile technology will continue to offer new opportunities to simplify and automate many of the tasks providers do every day and allow for more powerful clinical insights at their fingertips. Eventually, the use of big data analytics, predictive algorithms and artificial intelligence will allow mobile devices to offer significantly more value to providers.
For example, providers today manually look up treatment guidelines and have limited tools for adjusting clinical advice based on the unique clinical/genetic make-up of a patient. Soon, this information will be presented to the provider for review in real time on his or her mobile device.
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The impact of mobile over the coming five to 10 years will be inescapable as the device technology and cloud computing capabilities continue to grow. And it will be felt by not only providers, but every stakeholder in healthcare.
Tom Giannulli, MS, MD, chief medical information officer at Kareo, has more than 15 years’ experience in medical software development. Follow him at @drtom_kareo