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EMR in Your Pocket

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, June 13, 2011
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It’s official: Docs love smartphones. And iPads. And pretty much any electronic device they can hold in their hands. So how can you turn clinicians’ passion for gadgets into more efficient and better-quality care? And perhaps even save some money in the process?

There’s no doubt smartphones are popular, and they are particularly beloved by physicians. But healthcare leaders need to consider how the practical value of such devices will benefit the entire organization—not just individual docs.

“The smartphone is the new doctor’s black bag: I never leave home or office without it,” says John Luo, MD, associate director of psychiatric residency training at the 74-staffed-bed UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Institute. “The smartphone is more valuable than a computer to me because it’s always available to help—just as Sherlock Holmes had Dr. John Watson.”

Luo is not alone: A 2010 Manhattan Research Company survey shows 72% of physicians use smartphones—and the number is expected to grow to 81% percent by 2012.

What’s most alluring about smartphones and other handheld devices is similar to what providers like about electronic medical records: their amazing capabilities to deliver relevant data neatly sorted into manageable bits. Access to data on handheld devices can help reduce duplicative testing, facilitate more appropriate medication therapies, reduce admissions, lower costs, and help improve care, just like the EMR can.

Healthcare leaders can expect to see a rise in medical apps—and should get ready to decide which ones are best for their organizations. 

A range of options

This spring, a crop of new mobile apps sprung up that will allow docs on-the-go access to EMR data on their handheld devices. There are different types of EMR apps—from those that only work with a specific vendor’s EMR to some that allow access to all desktop, laptop, and server-based files and programs.

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