The following is a guest blog post by Cliff McClintick, chief operating officer of Doc Halo. Cincinnati-based Doc Halo sets the professional standard for health care communication offering secure messaging for physicians, medical practices, hospitals and healthcare organizations. The Doc Halo secure messaging solution is designed to streamline HIPAA-compliant physician and medical clinician sharing of critical patient information within a secure environment.
For many physicians, the days of manila folders and paper charts are a distant memory.
For many others, they never existed.
But patient records are only one area where technology is redefining how doctors work. Newer tools, especially mobile apps, are taking the place of 3,000-page reference books, phone-tag inducing pagers and even plastic anatomical models.
About 78 percent of physicians in a Kantar Media survey released in January said they used smartphones for both professional and personal tasks. They had downloaded an average of seven apps in the last six months.
Here are a few app categories that can make any doctor’s life easier:
- Drug database. The old way to find out about a drug — what it does, proper dosing, potential interactions — was to flip through a rather large tome. Web-based drug databases eliminated much of the page-turning, and now mobile apps are making the process even handier.
- Journal reference. Doctors are increasingly relying on mobile devices to help them keep up with research in their field. About 21 percent of physicians use smartphones to read medical journals, according to Kantar Media, and 28 percent use tablets to read them. The New England Journal of Medicine makes recent articles, along with images, audio and video, available through its free NEJM This Week app for iPhone and iPod Touch. Many other medical publishers have similar offerings.
- Secure texting. Physicians text as much as anybody. Regular SMS text messages, however, are not HIPAA-compliant. Physician messaging platforms developed by companies such as Doc Halo allow doctors to text about work while keeping their patients’ health information safe. Features to look for include encryption with federally validated standards, limited data life for messages and a remote mobile wipe option in case the phone is lost. Secure texting eliminates the games of phone tag caused by the pagers that are still in use at many hospitals.
- EMR. Records are going mobile, too, with large and small EMR vendors alike releasing mobile apps. In a survey last year, Black Book Rankings found that only 8 percent of doctors used a mobile device for accessing patients records, ordering tests, viewing results or ordering medications. But 83 percent said they would do so if their current EMR had the capability.
- Image viewer. Several apps now let doctors view X-ray, CT, MRI and other diagnostic images on their mobile devices. Physicians get an initial impression based on the app and then take a closer look when they get to a full imaging workstation with higher resolution. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates these apps as medical devices.
- Billing. These apps help physicians capture diagnoses and billing codes on the go, such as when seeing patients in the hospital. Doctors can instantly transmit the data to their front desk or a billing company, speeding up payment and reducing the chance of lost charges.
- Patient education. These apps, which are often specialty-specific, allow doctors to call up images and even videos of body parts and their functions — and malfunctions. For example, a cardiologist might use a video showing what mitral valve prolapse looks like. Plastic models look nice, and they’re a great way for patients to get a hands-on sense of certain conditions and treatments. But they’ll never match the number of structures and processes these apps can illustrate.
No app can replace the knowledge and skill that a physician develops through years of training and experience. These mobile tools provide convenience and remove barriers to efficient practice, allowing doctors to spend more time on patient care.
Doc Halo, a leading secure physician communication application, is a proud sponsor of the Healthcare Scene Blog Network.