Mobile Makes the Difference in Emergencies … or on Vacation

Posted on August 3, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

My family and I have escaped this week to our favorite vacation destination, Pensacola Beach. And so I sit here writing in the cozy confines of the condo that we call home for close to a week nearly every summer. I gave barely a thought to how I was going to transmit this blog to the HealthcareScene.com servers while here. As it turns out, there is no WiFi, which means I’m relying on my iPhone to do a bit of online research, my laptop for Word, and the hotel across the street’s business center with which to cobble it all together.

My connectivity issues pale, of course, in comparison to those of providers working outside of their hospital’s four walls – be it in emergency situations such as the aftermath of a hurricanes like Ivan and Dennis, which hit Pensacola back in 2004 and 2005, respectively, or as part of a routine provider/patient encounter in telehealth programs. I wonder how providers at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital, where I was born (and no, I’m not telling you what year), handled patient care in the aftermath of Ivan, which devastated the town and outlying beach communities, and how mobile health solutions might better enable them should Mother Nature pay the same sort of visit today.

Well timed for this blog was the recent news that Epocrates has released the first phase of its EHR system, including an iPhone app, targeted to primary care practices with 10 physicians or less. The EHR, according to a recent report at MobiHealthNews.com, “is initially available as a Web-based SaaS product, includes patient encounter notes, electronic lab integration, e-prescribing and Epocrates’ flagship drug database.”

The iPhone version should be available in a few weeks, and is likely to include remote patient record look-up and schedule access, and e-prescribing. The iPad version, which is in development, will focus on point-of-care data capture. MobiHealthNews.com also reports that an Android app is in the works, but will be rolled out in later versions of the EHR.

It will be interesting to see if later versions also target larger physician practices, which would surely also benefit from mobile technology like this. Perhaps most interesting, at least to providers in places like Pensacola that see their fair share of hurricane-induced on-site emergency care, is that the Epocrates mobile EHR app will “be a native app and it will store patient data on the device,” according to the company, which means that “the device will not need a signal to access the EHR. Any new data will be synched with the record once the phone finds a signal.”

Hopefully that signal will not be as elusive in a community’s time of need as the WiFi seems to be at my vacation destination.