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FCC Says Wireless Health Should Be “Routine” Within Five Years

Posted on September 28, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

This week, the FCC made an announcement which, I think, is likely to have far-reaching implications, including for providers, hospitals, wireless vendors and medical device makers. *So* much is going on in this announcement that I think I’ll have to parcel it out into a series, so stay tuned.

But let’s start with the basics. In the announcement, the FCC said that it plans to implement on the key recommendations made by an independent mHealth task force.

Perhaps the most dramatic news is that the FCC seems ready to push for making mHealth “a routine medical best practice” by 2017.  Despite doctors’ increasing reliance on mobile devices, that’s a tall order — or even a nearly impossible one depending on how comprehensive your definition of mHealth is.  Regardless, this looks like a watershed moment.

The agency has already taken several steps that advance wireless healthcare networking, including:

*  Medical Body Area Networks:  The FCC recently released an order allocating spectrum for Medical Body Area Networks, networks of small sensors attached to a patient that continuously report results.

*  Medical Micropower Networks:  Last year, the FCC adopted rules enabling a next generation of  wireless medical devices used to restore functioning to paralyzed limbs. The MMN is an ultra-low-power wideband network consisting of transmitters, which are implanted in the body to take the place of damaged nerves.

FDA/FCC Partnership:  Since 2010, the FCC has been working in partnership with the FDA to help bring communications-related medical devices quickly and safely to market.

But this is just the beginning, folks. As you’ll see over following installments, the FCC is taking on not only the broad policy goal of “mHealth by 2017” but taking several steps that should help to lay the groundwork to make this happen.

Are they enough?  Let’s talk about it. I’ll get into what some of the proposals are, and how much impact they’re likely to have, in coming HospitalEMRandEHR.com articles.  So don’t turn that channel!

Survey: Virtually All Docs Want Mobile EMRs

Posted on August 21, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Here’s news that shouldn’t come as a surprise:  a new study has concluded that nine out of ten doctors would like to be able to use an EMR on their mobile device. The survey was conducted by a vendor, which arguably suggests that the study reflects its agenda, but if you’re like me you’ve been hearing the same thing from doctors almost daily.

By the way, to be clear, plenty of physicians are already accessing EMRs via mobile devices. The thing is, most access the EMR through some kludgy solution like a Citrix client,  which leaves much to be desired in the way of flexibility and usability.  So getting a “real” client onto the key devices is a hot item.

The survey, which was conduced by Sage Software successor Vitera Healthcare, reached out to 240 Vitera customers, most of whom were office-based physicians.  In the study, which was reported by Information Week, 72 percent of respondents said they used mobile devices in healthcare.  However, they mostly used their tablets and smartphones to do medical research or communicate with other staff members  — in fact, only six percent were using the devices to connect to EMRs or do e-prescribing.

What stood out most of all in this research was that 91 percent of physician respondents said they’d be interested in a mobile EMR solution. Features they like the best include ability to review and update patient charts and order prescriptions, along with documenting patient encounters.  In other words, they want to be able to do virtually everything they can do from a desktop.

Not surprisingly, Vitera is working on its own mobile EMR solution, designed for use on iPads (though usable on iPhones).  eClinicalworks is expected to launch an iPad-native EMR shortly.

It’s a lock that over the next few months, other vendors will take the same steps. The question is how usable these iPad and Android clients will be.  We’ll soon find out though!

Connecting Mobile With Desktop A Chore

Posted on July 31, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Readers, I’m guessing  you’ve seen the same stats I have, which suggest that doctors are crazy about tablet use, as well as smartphones.  And we’d probably all agree that using both for clinical tasks makes sense in a lot of environments.

The thing is, few doctors are actually using these devices in day to day practice management, according to a recent study.  A survey of 1,190 physicians published in June found that 75 percent of doctors use their desktop for practice management tasks, according to American Medical News.  The study was published by little blue book directory and its parent company Sharecare.

Truthfully, doctors have a perfectly reasonable motive for doing so: they need the greater power and larger screens desktop computers provide. Not only that, they get to use their hospitals’ EMR in its original form, rather than through a Citrix or other client awkwardly shoehorned onto an iPad or Android tablet.

So, what to do to make the transition between these devices more seamless — and mobile devices better integrated into the mix? In a piece by Healthcare IT News‘ Michelle McNickle, whose work, like John, I’m beginning to find addicting, chief scientist at M.Modal Juergen Fritsch outlines some key steps in bridging the “mobile-desktop divide.” Here’s a few ideas on what needs fixing:

Inadequate apps:  Many of the apps physicians use most often aren’t available for tablets or the iPhone. Workarounds exist, but they’re crude.

Speech recognition is critical:  Doctors are already used to dictating into cellphones to do clinical documentation, so making tablets documentation friendly is very important.

Create a hybrid strategy: Don’t demand that physicians go all-mobile in one swoop, Fritsch suggests. Combine multiple devices and make the experience as similar as possible from device to device.

Educate doctors on the latest offerings:  Doctors who used the initial round of apps and interfaces on mobile devices were probably irritated, as they were fairly cumbersome. CIOs and CMOs should make sure they educate physicians on current offerings, which will probably appeal to them much more.

To put in my own quibble, my sense from researching the matter is that the biggest force holding back mobile use is simply getting EMR vendors to create native clients for tablets and phones. Even if they’re not fully-featured, they should at least be cleanly usable.  What do you think?

Health IT Can Change Delivery Models From The Outside In

Posted on July 2, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As we all mull over the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision affirming the key pillar of the health reform law, transformation is definitely in the air.  Hey, if nothing else, we’ve got a presidential election on the way, and it’s likely there will be big changes — either yanking back parts of PPACA or expanding it significantly — when the new POTUS steps in.

This is a great time for the health IT world to assert its place in the system and change the way care is delivered. Of course, I don’t have anything like the space to cover this topic in full  but a few ideas that I think have high potential include:

* Hospital At Home:  This Johns Hopkins model delivers care at home to patients who could use hospital-level care but aren’t likely to deteriorate. It can lower costs by almost one-third and reduce complications, researchers say. Let’s step up and bring sophisticated mhealth apps and remote monitoring to power this further.

*Medical Body Area Networks: With the approval of specifically-dedicated spectrum for MBANs, the FCC has kicked off what should be a revolution in health monitoring, both for consumers interested in self-care and for clinicians. Where can we take it this year?  For example, will consumers wear their network, connected to a receiver in their car, and transmit their own data as they come into an ED for care?  The mind boggles.

* Prescribe An App: This is an area which is juuust getting a foothold in American medicine — though as the linked article notes, the Department of Health in England has created a list of 500 apps for primary care docs to prescribe to patients. The practice can only grow here as evidence helps us sift out the best apps.

*Patient Portals:  Yeah, so what, they’re required under Meaningful Use anyway. So why am I listing them here? Because a nice interspersing of the above technologies with a robust,  user-friendly portal has nearly unlimited potential for medical collaboration:  video visits, telemedicine, mobile visits and check-ins and so on. Although, John also wrote about some of the challenges of patient portals recently on EMR and EHR.

Of course, I’ve said nothing about EMRs themselves, which obviously lie at the center of this Web.  But for a reason. I’m taking the position that in most cases, given the incredible mhealth explosion, care delivery change is going to push in from outside the hospital rather from within. Am I wrong there?

Billing App For Doctors Should Catch Hospitals’ Eye

Posted on April 2, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Today, I’m going to do something I seldom do — talk about a specific app and what it represents in terms of trends.  The product, SwiftPayMD, is interesting not only because it seems to be solving an important problem, but also because it may be one of the early entrants in a new category of mobile software.

The product,  which runs on the iPhone/iPad, is made by a startup called Iconic Data. Iconic describes SwiftPayMD as a “mobile revenue cycle management app” which lets doctors submit diagnosis and billing codes directly to their office while still at their local hospital.

Hmmm. A mobile revenue cycle management app. What, you mean a product that acknowledges that doctors on the move need not only to access, review and enter clinical data, but also to keep the money coming in?  It’s astounding!  It’s revolutionary!  It’s…a no-brainer.

While I admit I didn’t find any major studies on the subject, it does look as if the app developers and (slow moving) firms on the revenue cycle management side are starting to get it that if you’re going to document, read data and diagnose on the road, you might as well bill for your time too.

A Google search on the words “mobile revenue cycle management” doesn’t turn up a lot that’s on  point, though it does seem that there’s a few small providers in this space, including one focused on anesthesiology.  But my guess is that this will change dramatically within the next six months. The idea just makes sense.

In summary, I guess I’m saying that we’re looking at something really important here. While I haven’t tested SwiftPayMD — and thus, can’t begin to predict whether it will be a major player — the idea is almost certain to catch fire.

Now, I’m tossing the ball to you, hospitals. Is this an opportunity for you?  Should hospital IT departments supply branded apps which allow doctors to collect money faster (and perhaps their own institutions as well)?  Seems like a good idea to me.

Software to Software Interoperability and Software to Device Interoperability

Posted on March 26, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve been having the discussion for a long time about interoperability of healthcare data. Although, maybe I should say the discussion has been around lack of interoperability of healthcare data. However, I think we sometimes get confused in the discussion because there are a lot of different ways to share healthcare data. From the hospital point of view this becomes even more complex. Here’s a look at some of the various ways that we could and in many cases should share data.

Software to Software – When someone is talking about healthcare interoperability, they are usually talking about software to software data sharing. Some of the most common examples in healthcare include EHR to HIE, EHR to EHR, or even within modules of the same EHR or HIS system. You can also expand this to include Lab to EHR, Radiology to EHR, ED to EHR, Pharmacy to EHR, etc. In all of these cases, it’s one piece of software sharing data with another piece of software.

One of the biggest challenges with this sharing of data is that even when these software systems are the same software it can be hard to share the information in a ways that’s useful for the receiving system. Sure, we could just transfer some PDF files which are easily viewable and can be easily digested by the receiving system. The sending system and receiving system both understand the PDF format and can easily create, send and receive the file in a way that both know.

Unfortunately, a PDF file listing your drug history isn’t nearly as useful as an XML or other data driven file that contains each of the elements of your drug history including things like drug name, strength, date prescribed, data filled, etc etc etc. The challenge is not creating a file like this. That’s quite academic. The pain point is communicating to the new system the format of the file that you created so that the receiving system can ingest that file into that software in a proper manner.

There are plenty of more points on why software to software exchange is a challenge. However, we’re going to see more and more software to software exchange in healthcare going forward. We’re literally just at the beginning of this revolution.

Device to Software – Another common place for healthcare data exchange is from a medical device to software. Some of the most common examples are the blood pressure cuff and thermometers that are connected directly to an EHR software. Things like EKG’s are also becoming more and more common. In the hospital there are an amazing number of high end clinical devices that also integrate their data with software.

From my experience, these device to software integrations are pretty straightforward. The device manufacturers set the standard and there are relatively few medical device manufacturers out there. Usually it’s a one (device) to many (EHR and HIS software) which makes things easier. Although, we’ll see how this changes as more and more medical devices are built on top of various smart phones and tablets like the iPhone and iPad.

Software to Device – The exchange of data from software to a device is less common. Yes, I am excluding devices like a smart phone which to me are just an extension of the software. A better example is something like Cisco’s unified messaging system where you can have data from your EHR or HIS system sent to your Cisco VoIP phone. It’s pretty amazing technology and I hope we get to see more and more Software to Device integrations in healthcare.

Device to Device – I actually can’t think of any device to device connections that I know of today. I imagine there are some out there, but I can’t think of any that are really popular. With that said, I can see the day where devices are talking to devices. A simple example could be a medical device talking with your Smart TV. Your device could know it’s time to take another reading and so it could display that to you on your Smart TV. You could have the option to respond on the TV and the TV could talk to the device.

In some implementations, we already have a device talking to your smart phone. This will become even more common once we have things like near field communication (NFC) in all smart phones. Depending on how this is implemented, it could be considered a device to software connection, but could also land in the device to device.

Theses examples might not be a good description of what type of device to device integration we could see going forward in healthcare. I’m confident that creative minds will come up with some really fantastic device to device integrations in the future.

Guest Post: iPad or Android? Maybe We Need Both

Posted on March 16, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

This post is written by Brian Martin, MD.

Brian Martin is a physician informaticist – a software engineer who went to medical school, spent most of his career designing clinical software, and now spends his time helping physicians select technologies that improve their personal lives, their clinical practice, and the health of their patients.

I was asked today about whether iPad or Android-based devices will become the device of choice for practicing physicians. My answer? It could be that both have their place.

The issue isn’t whether someone will create the perfect iPad or Android tablet. Technological barriers, security issues, hackers, HIPAA, encryption, voice recognition, handwriting recognition are all technology problems. Easily solvable, especially with all the under-employed rocket scientists looking for work.

The hard work is to develop an elegant solution to the user experience that lies at the crossroads between technology and the physician’s workflow. And different situations may call for different devices.

If the doc is seeing patients in an outpatient setting or rounding on inpatients, then it’ll be the iPad. If the doc is away from the office or hospital, on personal time, then it’ll be the fits-in-your-pocket mobile device – an iPhone or Android device. It’s all about the user experience, how the technology fits into the doc’s workflow, and how the technology impacts the patient’s experience of the face-to-face physician visit.

For many, and perhaps the majority of physicians, being a doc isn’t a 40 hour-per-week job that you leave at the office. Not a chance. Clinical excellence is more than a full-time commitment, and for many, it’s a 24×7 commitment. Sure, you can go out to a nice restaurant, play a round of golf, a set of tennis, but…

When you are away from the office or hospital, and one of your patients needs your attention, do you really want to interrupt your personal life to drive to the office?

Or if you’re on a dinner date with your spouse/partner/date, and the lab calls to say that one of your patients has a wacked-out finding that you need to make an immediate treatment decision on, do you cancel your date and head back to the office? I wouldn’t want to. But if I’ve got 3,000 patients in my practice, I don’t have a choice, simply because I’m not going to rely on sheer memory power, no matter how highly I might think of myself (snicker if you will), to remember what diagnoses and allergies this patient has, what medications I’ve prescribed and why, and what the last test results were. Nope. No one’s that good.

But what if I could excuse myself for 5 minutes, step outside, pull this patient’s summary EMR up on my iPhone, make a diagnostic and treatment decision, select and submit one of my standard order sets, transmit a prescription to the pharmacy, then call the patient and tell him to stop taking one of his medications and go to his pharmacy to pick up the medications I just prescribed? Fantastic! I don’t cancel my date and ruin what was developing into a seriously romantic evening, my patient is properly managed, and life is good.

Have you ever seen a doctor walk into the doctor’s lounge in the hospital, then call the nursing station with his/her patient orders just to avoid entering data into the hospital’s EMR? I have. I’ve also watched my primary-care physician, who is not a touch typist, try to maintain eye contact with me while his eyes flitted rapidly between the keyboard and monitor.

And why can’t he maintain eye contact? Because his employer mandated that all physicians do their own clinical data entry, including progress notes, lab and medication orders, referrals, etc. Sure, that’ll get the employer to HIMSS Level 6, but at what cost? Or imagine a psychiatrist constantly switching his/her attention between the patient and a computer monitor during a psychotherapy session… And if that patient has paranoid/delusional traits?

I have yet to see an EMR with a keyboard/mouse/monitor (KMM) interface that does not interfere with the physician/patient experience. What we need is a technology that enhances the clinical experience FOR THE PATIENT. Docs know how to use traditional paper charts and pens for taking notes and looking up information during a face-to-face patient consultation, while keeping their focus on the patient. The iPad is the closest we have to a replacement for the pen and paper chart. Creating iPad, iPhone and Android interfaces to existing EMRs can be a first step.

The hard work is to develop an elegant solution to the user experience that lies at the crossroads between technology and the physician’s workflow. And different situations may call for different devices.

So. If you are a C-level health systems exec who is being pitched to make a “me-too” decision to spend mega bucks on an enterprise-wide KMM-interface EMR built using 1960s-era software (MUMPS is the COBOL of medicine), spend some time walking around and visiting docs in your community who use EMRs. Ask them if they’ll let you watch how they interact with their patients and their EMR. Pay attention to the user experience, and ask them about some of the scenarios I’ve described above. Then watch a three-year-old use an iPad.

Can iPads Make Docs More Efficient? There Are Many Views

Posted on March 14, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As some may recall, I wrote a piece a couple of months ago about a disastrous iPad implementation at a Seattle hospital. The doctors all gave back their tablet, saying that they couldn’t work with it, and the hospital ended up implementing a thin client solution.

Here’s an interesting follow-up, in which the iPad came out looking great.

A new study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a group of internal medicine students actually did become more efficient by slinging iPads. Researchers with the journal surveyed 115 internal medicine residents affiliated with the University of Chicago before and after giving them iPads to access EMRs, the hospital paging system and medical publications,  Reuters reports. Ninety-five percent of  students said the set-up improved their efficiency.

How did the hospital make the iPad set up work?  According to a piece in imedicalapps.com, U of C took great care to help make the iPad integrate well, including the following:

User support

— Used Citrix to grant access the hospital’s Epic system

— Documented carefully how Epic works with Citrix, including materials showing residents how to find local printers

— Spelled out some advantages of an iPad/Epic marriage, including addressing patient issues while in conference the capacity to discharge patients on rounds

Security

— Explained how to address the problem if the resident’s iPad is stolen, including a policy that residents couldn’t store patient data on the iPad

Obviously, one prominent success and one prominent failure aren’t going to settle the issue of whether iPads are the future of medicine.   And while Android isn’t getting a lot of talk  in medical circles, I wouldn’t count out Android apps by a long shot. Plus, I’m sure John would passionately argue for a native iPad EHR app versus a Citrix connection.

Still, it’s interesting to see a case study in which doctors are neither frustrated nor burnt out by iPad use. I’m not sure if conditions can be replicated — after all, interns are young, eager and more prone to be tech-friendly — but it’s worth considering all the same.

Apple Security Issues Linger, Raising iPad, iPhone Concerns For Hospitals

Posted on January 18, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

To date, few hospital IT administrators have made a big investment in supporting Apple devices, though many facilities are testing them out. Most testers have found that neither the smartphone nor the tablet work well as clinical data entry devices, and some have actually ended i-whatever pilots when doctors refused to use them.

But it seems that this is far from the worst problem iPads and iPhones pose for your hospital. In fact, in a recent case, one application downloadable directly from the company’s App Store was compromised to such an extent that it completely exposed the device to attackers.  According to a recent story in Forbes magazine, former NSA analyst and high-profile Apple hacker Charlie Miller sneaked an app onto the Store which, among other things, allowed Miller to execute commands on an iPhone. The program, Instastock, appears only to list stock tickers. (It’s not hard to imagine an app like this popping up on physicians’ iPhones/iPads, is it?)

While this might be old news to some of you, I was surprised to learn that the mobile Safari browser used on iOS devices seems to have some serious security flaws, too.  In fact, Safari doesn’t seem that sound overall. A report published six months ago concluded that while Explorer 9 blocked 100 percent of malicious URLs (with Application-based filtering enabled), Safari 5 blocked just 13 percent.

I am a huge fan of Apple devices, mind you. I think that EMRs would be in place in every hospital in the U.S., more or less, if vendors produced an interface one-tenth as elegant and streamlined as that of Apple products.  And it’s easy to understand why hospital IT leaders might want to go with the times and support the devices physicians already use.

But given the extent of these vulnerabilities, and the fact that Apple seems surprisingly slow to patch them, I’m actually surprised that so many hospital IT departments are continuing to  consider (or even offer) EMR access via iOS devices.  Maybe they’re not being irresponsible — after all, any OS can be hacked in time — but they seem to have one heck of a security challenge on their hands. It would definitely make me nervous.

More Mobile Questions: Do Your Devices Play Nicely?

Posted on December 21, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke 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.

Today I had a very interesting conversation with a health IT exec (full disclosure: a client) about the future of mobile devices in hospitals. His perspective, which sounded dead-on to me, was that while mobility is great, making sure your mobile and point of care devices work together is even more important.

Let’s look at the patterns emerging in clinical data access. Here’s some big pieces to consider:

* EMR: First, of course, the EMR. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands, or in some cases millions, to put your EMR in place (and in most if not cases, you’ll be spending big dollars on integration too). But having done that, you’re still not home. These days, you have to look at how doctors and nurses will access EMR data on the fly as well as in the office.  In other words, mobility is a must-have, not nice to have.

* Tablets: Clinicians are very excited about using tablets, especially the glamourous iPad. But sometimes, reality intervenes. In some cases, clinicians are satisfied with using them — take fellow contributor Dr. Michael West — even if their EMR might not have a native client available for the platform. But many other physicians and nurses have found them exasperating or even unusable given the volumes of data they’re managing.

* Smartphones:  Obviously, it’s great to let doctors access EMR data wherever they are, and in some cases, that works fine.  Smartphones are already in wide use by doctors,  70 to 85 percent of whom have one, according to various sources. Not only that, they’re light and portable. But given their small screens, smartphones aren’t the ideal vehicle with which to access detailed clinical data.

*Point of care devices:  The old faithful of portable data, point of care devices on carts were there long before newfangled smartphones and tablets made the scene.  You may have more confidence you can manage them, and depending on the specifics, you may save money on the front end. (Integration and support are a separate issue.)  The question is, are they going to meet the needs of doctors who don’t spend a lot of time on the hospital floor?

I’ve outlined these options as though they’re mutually exclusive, but the truth is, they’re all likely to pop up in your hospital, and more. Doctors and nurses carry smartphones and iPads of their own, you probably have COWs in place already, execs and clinicians tote laptops around and you probably have some wall-mounted computers or displays in place too. In other words, your real choice isn’t whether you mix and match mobile and point of care device, it’s how you manage them as a group.

Integrating this mix of device is a big technical challenge, a support headache, a security problem, and probably a Meaningful Use issue too. But you’re stuck with it. Now, how are you going to handle it?