The Coming Shift to Mobile EHRs

The iPhone is the fastest growing consumer electronic platform in history and not just your average consumers are adopting it. 65% of physicians now have smart phones and half of these are iPhones.

What might these trends mean for EHRs? Morgan Stanley sees the mobile internet as the next big wave in the tech sector, driven by the smart phone. Something similar could be said about the HIS market: I see the mobile EHR market as the next big wave in HIS, driven largely by the wide adoption of mobile platforms by physicians.

Why are physicians choosing the iPhone? Evidence suggests that available medical applications are what is driving the use of the iPhone specifically by physicians.

There are now more than 750 iPhone applications available that are appropriate in a professional health care setting. They perform essentially 5 functions.

1. Research and reference, including patient education tools
2. Remote access to patient information when the physician is remote, eg AirstripOB.
3. Testing (eye charts and hearing tests)
4. Decision support and
5. EHRs, including iChart and AllScripts.

By far the mostly widely adopted apps are research and reference, but continued adoption is driving docs to ask for more apps on the iPhone from software vendors, including EHR and EMR vendors. PracticeFusion says this is one of their most requested updates. While historically EMR and EHR vendors have not been known for their willingness to provide requested features, with 30% of physicians planning on EHR purchases in the near term, they will no doubt exert some usability pressure on the market.

In fact, it’s already happening.

Some examples: Epic and iPhone are teaming up at Stanford medical center. iChart and Allscripts EHRs are now available at the Apple iTunes Store. In addition, Apple is rumored to be planning a focus on the health care market. Possibly to enable more EHRs on the iPhone, or possibly, a new device. As the rumors of the itablet also include rumors that the tablet will run the same OS as the iPhone, this will mean that all of the myriad of medical applications now available on the iPhone will be immediately available for the tablet, possibly in May or June of 2010. This could really drive rapid adoption of the potential for the tablet as a better form factor for health care. Although it’s still very early, 3M sees opportunity and has invested in mobile applications company Artificial Life. They will reportedly partner on mobile health and diabetes applications.

While Google’s Android phone OS may be a better platform, it simply won’t catch on without the apps to drive physician adoption. For many physicians, a smartphone without Epocrates is simply a non-starter. The one thing that might give the Android a boost is the iPhones marriage to AT&T. Unless iPhone can move onto a new carrier, apps might not be enough of an incentive for users to suffer through dropped calls.

As was noted by at the recent connected health conference, mobile medicine is less about the technology than the user experience. For physicians and EHRs, user experience means mobility above all else. EHRs are as much about collaboration (think “clinical groupware“) as continuity, and whether collaborative knowledge is in another department, another physician’s head or in a knowledge repository such as a research paper, medical dictionary or clinical decision support system, physicians need that knowledge at the point of care. Having the necessary knowledge literally “on hand” is critical.

If, as Clayton Cristensen says, disruptive change happens when new technologies are “simpler, more convenient and less expensive” (which often creates the user experience), EHRs on the iPhone or other mobile platforms will likely be very disruptive.

What’s your mobile strategy?

Next up: How SaaS EHR providers will stand to benefit from the coming wave of mobile EHRs.
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2 thoughts on “The Coming Shift to Mobile EHRs

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