Can I Use My Smartphone to Connect to My EHR?

January 4, 2011

There is no question that smartphones have been embraced by physicians.

There is no question that smartphones have been embraced by physicians. A recent survey by Manhattan Research indicated that some 64 percent of MDs are using smartphones, with anticipated increases to 81 percent by 2012.

While smartphones have been popular for their convenient access to powerful medical reference applications such as Epocrates, will they be able to connect to a physician’s electronic health record (EHR) system, providing the on-the-go doctor with a peek into a patient’s record?

Depending on your EHR, the answer is yes-there is an app for that.

Here’s how it works: after you determine that your EHR vendor makes a smartphone application, you download it to your mobile device and then work with the vendor to configure the application to access your primary EHR database in secure, encrypted fashion. Open the app, login and you are online, with virtually unlimited access to all of your patient information in the palm of your hand.

There are some limitations, however. Smartphones are wonderful for quick access to at-a-glance information, but even the most diehard enthusiast would admit that they are not a robust data entry tool. As a result, the EHR vendor’s smartphone apps are heavy on viewing patient info and light on data entry (don’t expect to create complex progress notes using these apps).

With that said, for the peripatetic physician, who periodically does not have ready access to a regular computer, the smartphone apps are very practical, allowing rapid access to patient histories, orders, lab results, images, meds, as well as scheduling info and task lists. Some data entry is possible, including updating allergies, procedures, diagnoses as well as e-prescribing and brief phone notes.

Since you are connected to your main EHR database via the smartphone app, any changes you make to the record using your mobile device are captured-no data re-entry is required. From a HIPAA perspective, the EHR apps on the smartphone represent a fairly low risk because no patient data is actually stored on the phone.

The EHR smartphone features vary from vendor to vendor, so it is worth a few minutes of investigation to confirm that your EHR vendor’s app has the features you want. While you are checking on features, look for pricing information too. While the smartphone app may be free, most vendors are likely to charge a per-provider fee for accessing the primary EHR database.

Bruce Kleaveland is a paid correspondent through Intel’s sponsorship with Physicians Practice.