I have been a physician long enough to remember the earliest days of the EHR. The bulky desktop computers made it hard to look at the patient while documenting. You could get swivel chair fatigue from turning back and forth. It was distracting and tedious. Many physicians who remember those days hesitate to implement an EHR today because of those early frustrations.
The need for more flexible, mobile solutions is one the reasons I got involved in the technical side of EHR development, and it’s why I focused on mobile technology when I began my other career as an EHR designer.
I am not alone in my belief that mobile technology is the future of EHR. According to an article in Becker's Spine Review, 91 percent of physicians are interested in accessing EHRs via mobile devices, and a recent Black Book Rankings survey showed that 83 percent of physicians want to use mobile EHR functionality. So why is it that one-third of physicians still haven’t implemented an EHR much less a mobile solution? The same Black Book Survey showed that while 51 percent of doctors use tablets for some research, only 1 percent feel they are maximizing use of their mobile clinical applications.
It doesn’t make much sense when smartphones and tablets are so entrenched in our everyday lives? You can do almost anything on these devices, and you should be using a mobile EHR to document your patient visits. Mobile devices are easy to use and the flexibility allows you to practice what I call heads-up medicine — using technology to engage patients more not less.
This is accomplished by using devices that let you enter data using simple tap-and-swipe gestures while you are talking to the patient instead of diverting your attention with complex navigation at a computer on the other side of the room. In addition, the mobile device allows you to easily share what you are doing with the patient, further involving them in the visit and in their own wellness.
The Black Book survey indicated that some physicians are concerned about deficits in using mobile EHRs. The concerns are primarily about screen size and maneuvering in a patient chart on a small screen. These concerns are addressed by solutions today that are optimized for tablets and designed to be easy to use on the smaller format.
Research has shown that providers who are using a fully mobile EHR in the exam room are upbeat about the results. A recent study conducted by AmericanEHR showed that 77 percent of physicians who do use a mobile device to access their EHR are very or somewhat satisfied.
If you are ready to take the plunge, I suggest looking for an application that is native to the device (i.e., a native iPad app) and not running on a device-based browser. Request a demonstration and ask to try it out yourself so you can see how it works. Once you make your choice, take the time to get comfortable with the device so you can make the most of it. This can be a first step in changing the way you engage patients for the better by making the technology virtually disappear in the exam room.