Partners Brings EHR To Mobile Devices

Posted on August 4, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

This week, Partners HealthCare announced that it made its EHR available on mobile devices for the first time, a move which has already attracted 2,000 of its affiliated physicians to mobile use.  At first blush this seems like a true mobile support project, rather than slapping a crude mobile interface on a desktop-based product like some of Partners peers, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Partners, a Boston-based integrated delivery network, created an app for iOS and BlackBerry devices drawing on InterSystems CACHE object database.  According to mobihealthnews, it took Partners’ IT staff 90 days to implement mobile options. In the future, Partners IT leaders plan to support Android devices, as well as making it possible to view radiology images on iPads.

The event deserves notice given Partners’ huge scope, which includes teaching and community hospitals making 160,000 admissions per year, along with a network of more than 5,000 physicians. It will be interesting to see how much use doctors make of the “mEHR” over the long term, and even more intriguing if Partners can isolate specific clinical, financial or operational benefits from its mobile support effort.

That being said, it’s also worth noting just because it happened, given how few hospitals seem to have invested significant development dollars in mobilizing their EHRs. Sure, doctors can connect with hospitals using their iPads and Android phones, but sometimes that’s limited to using a somewhat limited mobile browser. The problem with browser-based interfaces, however, is that Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer developers control the experience. An app tied directly into the guts of Partners’ EHR makes a lot more sense in my book.

Yes, I realize hospitals have much more to do than enable mobile access. I also realize that if they’re frantically trying to support onsite access to their EHR system, meet Meaningful Use requirements, manage sprawling integration projects and more, native mobile access to the EHR may not seem like a priority.

I’m dying to see more mobile EHR applications emerge, though. Hey, they’re effective, convenient, useful in a crisis and, ok, I’ll admit it, pretty darned cool.  (You can’t beat bringing your EHR along in your pocket!) Besides, once doctors get used to having medical data at hand when they need it, they might be more comfortable with the EHR in their office. Who knows?