iPads Could Boost The Value of EMR Installations

Posted on March 27, 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.

I was hanging around the #hcsm (healthcare social media) chat tonight on Twitter, and caught some interesting comments from physicians on how they use tablets.  While it’s hard to tell how unusual this approach is — the #hcsm chat attracts cutting edge types — one physician noted that he shows the patients what he’s doing on his iPad.

Now, in this case the physician said he does so simply to demonstrate that he’s not texting on their time. But that could be just the beginning. As doctors increasingly adopt iPad, Android and other tablets, they’re in a much better position to turn encounters into information sharing moments.

As a patient, I’ve already hit a few practices that have implemented EMRs. While big changes may be happening in the back offices of these practices, things haven’t been much different during my time with the physicians.  Arguably, they’ve seemed a bit better prepared, and in at least one case, they seemed more efficient at note-taking, but it wasn’t some kind of breakthrough moment.

On the other hand, if they used iPhone or Android apps to share key EMR data with me, in real time, it could be a real game-changer.

For example, imagine that you’re a diabetic, and you’ve come in for a regular screening.  Usually, you’ll get some feedback on your overall health status, commentary on test results and suggestions on how to move ahead, but it’s a bit superficial and rushed unless there’s an emergency afoot.

What if the same diabetic got to see a graph, drawing on data in the EMR, which offered a personalized analysis of how their A1c, glucose levels and other key metrics were trending. The same iPad display could offer a printable list of suggestions, and if you really got tricky, brief educational videos providing more background on each step as needed.

In short, a tablet is more than just a portable physician convenience; it’s a powerful display device which could greatly improve patient/doctor communication.  And if it leverages the well-indexed EMR, that data will be offer more than a recap of the conversation.

Given tablets’ potential for improving clinical encounters, I think practices should plan their EMR and iPad investments in tandem. Tablets can be a doorway to better counseling, education and collaboration with patients.  I hope to see more physicians move in this direction.