iPads, PDAs and Smartphones, Oh My!

February 2, 2010 at 11:56 am 1 comment

As I’ve posted on Twitter a couple of times, versions of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are being developed and deployed at a much faster clip.  This is partially due to the increased funding available via government grants, but also reflects the rise of prominence of technology in society as well as recognizing the benefits of those technologies.

Additionally, various aspects of the medical field are being broken up and addressed by different companies – resulting in pre-operative management systems, peri-operative management systems, capturing of prescriptions, electronic history & physical, image capture & storage from MRIs and X-Rays.

Advances in technologies are constantly occurring – with improvements to both software and hardware happening at a faster rate than ever before in human history.  This means that each advancement brings with it new possibilities and new capabilities that should help our daily lives and our professions.  But do they actually improve our workflow?

Last week, Apple announced their exciting new iPad product and set the web ablaze with people wondering what it was capable of, and what they really wanted it to do.  In light of the iPad premiere, we at mTuitive have been thinking about what future of Health IT and handheld electronics will look like.

On his blog, “Life as a Healthcare CIO,” Dr. John Halamka discusses his “ideal clinical device” and how the iPad compares to it:

My ideal clinical device is
*Less than a pound and fits in white coat pocket
*Has a battery life of 8-12 hours (a full shift)
*Can be dropped without major damage
*Has a built in full keyboard, voice recognition, or very robust touch screen input
*Provides a platform for a variety of healthcare applications hosted on the device or in the cloud

In comparison he finds that the iPad is “closer than other devices” to this ideal.  He notes various shortcomings that detract from the iPad’s potential for matching his ideal – its capacitance touch screen, lack of camera while being too big and not necessarily tough enough to withstand any sort of abuse.  But Halamka admits that he would need to test out the device before he can fairly weigh in on its real merits.

A week prior to the iPad’s reveal, Martin Young wrote on KevinMD.com about his own version of the ideal EMR system.  Mr. Young outlines the various (fairly apparent and basic) ways that an EMR system must augment the workflow of doctors and their facilities.  He says that any mobile devices connected to the EMR would have to use stylus/handwriting recognition software as opposed to keyboard.  Halamka also worried that keyboards (like the one found on the iPad) would lead to “hunt and peck typing” with one hand (the other occupied with holding the device).

However, I think that with the multitouch capabilities of Apple products (and now with Windows 7 products having it baked in for developers creating new apps and hardware) and with the rising familiarity of using PDAs/Smartphones, I think typing and navigating through a form would actually not be that problematic.  It would be up to designers of these applications to make them intuitively built so it would be easy for users to move from section to section and to only present physicians with pertinent options.  Also, as the developers of these apps tailor the various sections on the different forms, the synoptic answers provided by users are entered into a database as structured data to later be used for research purposes, performance evaluation and for risk management purposes.

Currently there is a mobile touchscreen device in use in the UK, specifically at St. Thomas hospital.  Entitled the Motion C5, the majority of the departments at the facility use this device.  It is easy to carry, easy to disinfect (for ICUs, etc.), and easy to integrate with other devices.  There is a barcode scanner and a camera built-in to the device.  It still appears fairly bulky and while it uses a stylus and speech input, it seems the User Interface (UI) could be a bit smoother – again, by utilizing the multitouch aspects of new products.

There is a lot of excitement in the health IT world, lots of new ideas and schools of thoughts rising up with developers engaged in rigorous discussions and forecasting.  While it will be interesting to see what shapes new technologies will take, and what capabilities they will adopt, we must never forget that they must always be easy to use and simplify the lives of their users.


Entry filed under: EMR, Standardization, Studies, Synoptic Reporting. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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