Do iPads and EHRs Mix?

Physicians are perennial students, so staying up to date on emerging healthcare technologies and cutting edge gadgets is second nature. Thus, it’s no surprise that a Manhattan Research study found 75% of doctors own a mobile Apple device, and nearly a fourth of them are utilizing iPads as we speak.

While doctors may already be using the iPad for tee time reminders and wrapping up Umberto Eco’s latest effort, how would the tablet affect patient-doctor interaction during a routine consultation?

A number of doctors have already begun running virtualized EHRs on iPads via applications like Citrix in their practices, and Apple CEO Tim Cook claims 80% of top U.S. hospitals are considering incorporating iPads into their mobile setups.

Though the iPad’s ergonomic appeal is obvious, healthcare leaders often disagree on whether it’s also an effective electronic healthcare tool.

Desktops on Tablets
Virtualized EHRs on iPads do much to stifle the healthcare industry’s fascination with mobile devices. Some doctors, however, remain predictably unfazed, and understand rapid shifts in the healthcare IT world will produce myriad native apps on stronger tablets.

For instance, New Jersey OB-Gyn Robert Gallo was among the first crop of doctors to port MacPractice EHR via Virtual Network Computing (VNC) on the first iPad. While Gallo was pleased overall, he noted the challenges associated with the touchscreen interface, which often interrupted the flow of doctor-patient communication.

Seattle Children’s Hospital experienced similar roadblocks, but was far less optimistic than Gallo in an article for The hospital had trouble bridging the gap between legacy applications built for Windows PCs and the iPad, noting compatibility issues when running a point-and-click EHR meant for bulky monitors on a touchscreen tablet running a vastly different operating system.

VNC use will likely die down with the emergence of native iPad EHRs, which will be far friendlier to multitasking. We can expect solutions to touchscreen difficulties through incorporation of checkmark-based prognosis options and voice-recognition software.

Meaningful Use
Tablets have less CPU power and lighter operating systems than their desktop counterparts, which is often cited as a source of concern regarding meaningful use compliance of native iPad apps.

To date, only a handful of IT companies have developed a native, ONC-ATCB certified iPad ambulatory EHR app, providing more technophobic doctors an opportunity to snag nearly $44k in meaningful use inducements.

To get an idea of what a meaningful use compliant native iPad EHR should feature, picture custom workflows, photo and video integration into patient charts, e-prescribing, electronic medical billing, and real-time speech-to-text.

Hospital IT managers are also fans of the tablet. Given the popularity of the iPad among healthcare professionals, their addition to a mobile EHR rollout setup may raise physician enthusiasm, which in turn eases the transition to meaningful use compliance.

Tablets could help hospitals slash costs. For instance, replacing a computer on wheels, or COW, for three iPads would result in over $6,000 in savings.

Second, the iPad’s outstanding battery life, resolution, and flexible user interface make sharing information with patients simpler and lures doctors to the device, keeping physicians checking messages and clearing to-do lists on the EHR system well after office hours.

However, security concerns may become a more pressing issue as more hospitals and private practices incorporate Apple’s platform. Seattle Children’s CTO Wes Wright admitted Apple’s new iCloud storage system worried him during the CIO interview, and expressed fears over granting iPads native access to the hospital’s data given their mobility.

iPad adoption is clearly very fashionable in the healthcare industry. According to Good Technology’s user base, the healthcare sector is third highest in a list of most iPad activations per industry – just one percentage point behind the tech sector.

Do you think the transition to iPad EHRs is inevitable and if so, how do you think healthcare IT experts can help ease this transition?

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