Mobile EHR Access Is Maturing

Today I read a story that surprised me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have. A clinician, writing for a publication called Diagnostic Imaging, suggests that a “mobile EHR” is emerging, a new entity which embraces mobile technology rather than treating it as an add-on. I wasn’t surprised that this was happening, but it is remarkable that it’s taken us so long to get to this point.

As Saroj Misra, DO, notes, healthcare organizations are rolling out infrastructure for clinicians to access EHR data via mobile devices, and EHR vendors are ramping up development of mobile interfaces for their systems. And physicians are responding. According to a recent Physicians Practice survey, 78% of physicians are now using mobile-accessible EHRs, and more than 85% of doctors and practices were using mobile devices to do their jobs.

As he sees it there were three big issues which previously held back the development of mobile EHRs:

  • Mobile device screens were too small, and battery life was inadequate.
  • EHR vendors hadn’t created interfaces which worked effectively with mobile devices
  • Healthcare organizations weren’t convinced that mobile EHR access protected health data sufficiently

Today, these problems have receded into the background. Screens have gotten larger, battery life has been extended, and while security is always an issue, standards for protecting mobile data are gradually emerging. Also, healthcare organizations are developing mobile device management policies which help to address BYOD issues.

In response, EHR developers are embracing mobile EHR access. There’s vendors like drchrono, which is a mobile-native EHR, but that’s not all.  Other ambulatory vendors, like athenahealth, describe themselves as a “provider of network-enabled services for electronic health records,” and MEDITECH’s Web Ambulatory app runs on a tablet.  Also, Cerner’s PowerChart Touch solution is built for the Apple iPad.

At this point, I truly wonder why all EHRs aren’t developed primarily with mobile deployment in mind. Physicians have been engaged mobile device users since smartphones and tablets first emerged, and the need for them to manage patients on the go has only increased over time. I know desktops still have their place, but the reality is that empowering physicians to take patient data with them is overwhelmingly sensible.

My sense, after researching this post, is that ongoing security worries are probably the biggest roadblock to further mobile EHR deployment. And I understand why, of course. After all, many of the major health data breaches occur thanks to a stolen laptop “walking away” when it’s left unattended, and mobile devices may be just as vulnerable.

That being said, the benefits of giving doctors an elegant mobile EHR solution are substantial. With the right targeted security policies in place, I believe the benefits of robust mobile EHR deployment – particularly giving clinicians on-the-spot data access and getting immediate data back — far outweigh these risks. I sincerely hope the HIT software industry agrees!

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

4 Comments

  • Our data also suggested significant growth in mobile EHR use over the past several years. I would point out the the premier mobile first EHR was developed by Epocrates several years ago, and that product is the basis for the Kareo mobile EHR. I would also comment that a good mobile EHR experience is based on moving select workflows to mobile where they can be presented in powerful ways that drive convenience and use.

  • What’s interesting is that readership of this blog has not followed the mobile trend. The majority of readers still do so on a desktop. My other non health IT blogs have followed the trend, but it turns out that most don’t like reading about EHR on their mobile device (ie. home). I guess they’d rather do it at work (ie. desktop). Although, many that read the emails with the full blog posts are likely doing it on their mobile device.

  • Dr. Giannulli, interesting to hear about your experience with the mobile EMR transition. You speak of transitioning key workflows to mobile, which suggests that most EMRs are still desktop-centric in their design. Is that true? And if so, do you think EMR development will transition to mobile-first designs anytime soon?

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