Out of the office: Staying connected via new technologies

September 27, 2006

New technologies including the Internet, cellular phones, and handheld devices such as smart phones can enhance the management of your practice when you are either traveling or away from the office, said Mrunal Shah, MD, Vice President, Physician IT Services, Ohiohealth, Columbus, Ohio.

New technologies including the Internet, cellular phones, and handheld devices such as smart phones can enhance the management of your practice when you are either traveling or away from the office, said Mrunal Shah, MD, Vice President, Physician IT Services, Ohiohealth, Columbus, Ohio.

However, various technologies have strengths and weaknesses depending on your needs, said Dr Shah. List out what you would like to accomplish and attempt to learn if a technology will accomplish it, he said.

For instance, if you travel abroad frequently you can use mobile services that use a technology called GSM (global system for mobile communication), an international standard.

Many physicians now communicate with patients and fellow physicians via email, noted Dr Shah. There are 2 major types of email, corporate and personal. Corporate email is maintained by an organization and is secure, he said. However, easy-to-set-up personal email accounts such as Yahoo and Hotmail have limited security. If you plan on communicating patient information while out of the office, then personal email accounts are a security risk, he said.

Handheld devices such as smart phones are the future of connectivity for physicians, said Dr Shah. Smart phones merge voice and data technologies, such as email and the Internet. "You can talk on this portable device and do office and clinical business." Manufacturers include Palm and the major cell phone providers.

Blackberry devices are better known than smart phones but are not useful for clinical information. "These are very well designed personal information management devices. You can be connected to your email and calendar, but that's about it," said Dr Shah.

Dr Shah also reminded physician cell phone users that they can get email on their phone. Cellular providers give users an email address with each phone. For example, a Verizon user has the 10-digit number@verizon.com as an email address. "A lot of cell phone users are unaware of this service," he noted.