Physicians often are portrayed as latter-day Luddites. However, that’s an urban myth, according to Peter Henderson of PatientKeeper, a Boston-based health information system provider.
“Physicians are surrounded by technology in their workplace, and most are eager to use technology that works for them,” Henderson says. That technology includes Apple iPhones and iPads, which have been embraced by doctors because they are “physician friendly” devices.
About 27% of primary care and specialty physicians own an Apple iPad or a similar tablet computer, according to marketing research firm Knowledge Networks. “Devices such as the iPhone and iPad are popular with physicians for many of the same reasons they’re so popular with consumers: an intuitive interface, lots of apps, and they’re cool,” said Henderson.
Physicians are using iPads to access patient information such as X-rays, CT scans and lab data. They also use them to connect with drug reference guides and electronic medical records, and for use with point-of-care systems. While many physicians buy iPads for use in their person life and then discover healthcare applications, medical centers around the country are beginning to integrate them with hospital information systems, enabling physicians to view clinical data at the bedside.
“Health care professionals may have initially purchased an iPad for personal use, then found all the form factor, interface and applications appealing and decided to use them in their professional lives,” says Mike Meikle, CEO of the Hawkthorne Group, a management and information technology consulting firm. He adds that the most popular apps for healthcare professionals include Calculate, drchrono EMR, iPharmacy, Medscape & Epocrates.
However, the so called “iDevices” do have drawbacks. There are the perennial HIPAA and HITECH privacy concerns and reception issues with wireless connections. Often the iPad can’t connect with clinical and financial software applications already in a physician’s office. Healthcare organizations are scrambling to address the privacy, security and regulatory issues that surround iDevices in the workplace.
Some facilities are creating a location where clinicians can securely and “cleanly” drop their iPad. “Smartphones and tablets support the inherently mobile work-style of many physicians, so the appeal and penetration of such devices with healthcare providers will only increase,” Henderson says.
The iPad is helping to establish a better relationship between physician and patient, many users believe. “The problem with traditional EMRs is that physicians are facing their computer or laptop instead of the patient,” says Tim Smith of ClearPractice, which released Nimble last year, an EHR system built from the ground up for the iPad.
“With Nimble, physicians can sit with their patients to show them things like anatomical patterns and pictures, demonstrating what’s actually going on in their bodies,” he says. “With the iPad’s user interface, the EHR is extremely intuitive and easy to use.”
To fully leverage the technology in an iPad, physicians need to do more than just use the tablet to be mobile and to fill prescriptions from home. “One of the best tips we would give a physicians is to fully integrate the iPad into their practice,” Smith says. “The device makes an immediate impact on a physicians’ workflow, and provides the opportunity for a more interactive experience with patients.”
Cindy Atoji is a Boston-based journalist who specializes in technology, business, and healthcare news coverage. A former Boston Herald editor, Cindy blogs for the Globe and BodiMojo.com, and writes for various national publications. Visit her Website at www.CindyAtoji.com.