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!