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Epocrates EMR Killed Immediately After Launch

Posted on March 15, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Back in 2010, Epocrates had its EMR ducks in a row. The company, known best for a very popular smartphone-based drug interaction database for physicians, announced plans to release a mobile SaaS EMR.  While Epocrates was jumping into a market more crowded than a barrel full of monkeys, one could see where leaders might see an EMR as an extension of the relationship it already had with physicians.

Now, Epocrates leaders have said “oops” and announced that they were killing the product,  telling investors and the public that building the darned thing was distracting it from its core business.  It does seem that the company was struggling with the EMR rollout process:  it didn’t roll out its first-phase product until August 2011 and didn’t get its Meaningful Use certification until February of this year. But this is the first time I’ve seen a company kill a product at this stage of development, particularly in such a high-profile manner.

It must have been more than a bit embarrassing to make the announcement during HIMSS12 when, of course, companies traditionally kick off products they’re planning to sell vigorously. As Epocrates was making plans to dump or sell their EMR, the company’s CMIO, Tom Giannulli, MD, was pitching the company’s new iPad EMR to editors.

As Epocrates itself pointed out, there aren’t too many dedicated iPad EMR offerings out there. So in theory, this should not have been a waste of the company’s time.  On the other hand, with the iPad still a new frontier for EMRs, we still don’t know whether it will ultimately work as a platform of choice for physicians.  As we’ve previously discussed on this blog, the iPad seems to be a pretty good medium for reading data but a very awkward one for entering data. Whether that’s a fatal flaw remains to be seen.

Truthfully, this looks like a failure of execution from start to finish, rather than a product that couldn’t possibly work. But these are tough times. Even the best execution may not work; and if so, Epocrates was probably wise to fold its cards before further damage was done.

Will Hype Around the iPad 3 Lead to an Increase in EMR Apps?

Posted on March 8, 2012 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.

In my conversations at HIMSS a few weeks ago with providers and vendors, I heard more than a few references to user-friendly EMR design, easy-to-use dashboards and the bar that has been set so high by Apple and the iPad. I had a chance to chat with David Carleton, VP and CIO at Heritage Valley Health System in Pennsylvania, about the adoption of the iPad in the clinical setting, particularly with regard to EMRs. Carleton, with the assistance of dbMotion, helped a team of docs and IT staff at HVHS in Pennsylvania develop their own EMR iPad app.

In a nutshell, the internet Clinical Access Portal (iCAP) app organizes and harmonizes data captured and stored in various systems – including its Allscripts Enterprise ambulatory solution and its soon-to-be-completed Allscripts Sunrise Clinical Manager, as well as the ClinicalConnect HIE in western Pennsylvania – and delivers Continuity of Care Documents (CCDs) to HVHS providers via the tablet. Named to the 2012 Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Networks, HVHS seems to be placing a high priority on enabling its facilities to be truly interoperable with one another. It made sense to me that the hospital would want to better enable its physicians with a handy iPad app, but I wondered why they took the in-house development route.

Carleton explained to me that one of the reasons was physician buy-in. (You can view more of our chat in the video below.) Apparently, the key to getting physicians to adopt and consistently use the tablet and app was to have them on board from the very beginning. Involvement in the design process let them have a say as to what would best fit their workflows.

With the release of the iPad 3, the details of which were announced yesterday, I’m willing to bet we’ll see an up tick in clinical interest in the iPad and a corresponding surge in app development – in-house or otherwise.

Are you aware of other facilities getting into the EMR app game? Please share the details in the comments below.

Physicians Say iPad Not Ready For Clinical Computing

Posted on February 16, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Doctors love them, but don’t think the iPad is ready to play a major role in clinical practice, as Apple hasn’t done enough to optimize it for healthcare, according to a new study by Spyglass Consulting Group.

According to a new report by Spyglass,  doctors don’t feel the iPad is ready to have an impact on care delivery. While 80 percent of physicians responding predicted that the iPad will have a positive impact on future care, it’s just not ready today, they said. (Most doctors I’ve talked with agree, noting that while it’s great for reading data, it’s extremely difficult to use for data entry.)

We’re not at all surprised to hear this given some of the iPad horror stories traveling around. For example, when Seattle Children’s Hospital pilot-tested iPads for its doctors, the result was a complete flop. Doctors there complained that that it was just too awkward to enter data into the otherwise sexy device. Shortly thereafter, IT switched its plans and rolled out a zero-client set-up.

So, what will it take to make the iPad clinically useful? To be successful in healthcare, Apple and its partners need to rewrite and optimize clinical apps to include gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and even video conferencing, Spyglass research concludes.

I’d add that EMR/EHR vendors need to create native front ends for the iPad; given its penetration among doctors, I’m baffled by vendors who demand that doctors use their system via Citrix or the Web.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Epic’s Canto, few vendors offer a fully-fledged iPad app as a front end to their system. (One of few examples of a native iPad app from a smaller EMR vendor comes from Dr. Chrono, which, perhaps not so coincidentally, just got $2.8 million in venture funding.)

What’s more, Apple will have to do something about iOS security. It’s little wonder that 75  percent of doctors said that hospital IT departments weren’t eager to support mobile devices on corporate networks. While any device exposes networks to additional threats, Apple seems to have some particularly difficult problems, especially where its Safari browser is concerned.

Like the doctors surveyed by Spyglass, I have little doubt that iPads will end up assuming an important role in healthcare.  But given the snail’s pace at which native iPad apps are being launched, it may be a long time before that happens.

iPad Love

Posted on January 4, 2012 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

Okay, it’s now official  — I love my iPad!  I just needed some time to live with it and figure out how it would become a very useful part of my life.  Although my EMR vendor does not currently have an iPad app, they will be going live with their first version in January 2012, and you can bet I’ll be one of the first in line to download it.  But even without yet downloading their upcoming app, I thought I would share a few other wonderful observations on how my iPad has become a more integral part of my life just in the short amount of time that I have owned one.

First, it goes where others don’t.   My favorite place so far?  Catching up on my EMR-related blogs and news in the gym on the weekend.  Workouts go by in a jiffy now!  It’s a great way to multitask and stay fit.  After all, there aren’t enough hours in a day.

What’s more, an iPad is also way easier to read than a smartphone.  And more luxurious, too.  It’s probably a good idea to pamper your eyes a little more in 2012, if you aren’t been already.  So what are you still waiting for?  🙂

Obstacles To Using Tablets As EMR Front Ends

Posted on December 16, 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.

Not long ago, I recently posted an item on HospitalEMRandEHR.com discussing how one hospital dropped plans to distribute iPads as front-ends for its Cerner EMR.  Doctors at hospital, Seattle Children’s, gave the iPad very bad reviews as an EMR-connected device, in part because they felt that Cerner’s system was too hard to use via a Safari browser.

Since then, a few readers have commented on the story, and interestingly, they’ve offered more nuanced feedback on what works (and doesn’t) in deploying a tablet as an EMR device for clinical use, including the following:

* Deploying the iPad initially offers a patient “wow factor” — in other words, it may make providers look hip and up-to-date technically — but that doesn’t last very long.

* Even a well-designed, tablet-native tablet app may still be frustrating for clinicians to use, given the high volume of information they need to enter. (Paging through a dozen screens is no fun.)

* When choosing a tablet, be aware that the physical performance of the tablet (especially the touch screen) can be a big issue.  If clinicians “touch” and the screen doesn’t respond, it can throw them off their stride.

It’s hard to argue that hospitals (and medical practices) should take mobile access to EMRs seriously. And anyone here would know, most organizations are.  After all, now that health IT industry is looking hard at mHealth, smart new ways to use mobile devices in care seem to be springing up daily.

But before you dig too deeply into your mobile strategy, you may want to hear more clinicians on how their mobile EMR usage is playing out. Call me a curmudgeon, but it seems to me that it may still be too early to invest big bucks in a tablet for mobilizing your EMR just yet.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m convinced that someday, every doctor will enter and access patient data via some sort of mobile device. But it seems that there’s some fairly important technical issues that still need to work themselves out before we can say “this is how we should do it.”

101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 16-20

Posted on December 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Time for the next entry covering Shawn Riley’s list of 101 Tips to Make your EMR and EHR More Useful. I met someone at a conference who commented that they liked this series of posts. I hope you’re all enjoying the series as well.

20 Data collaboration is key to patient safety
I think this tip might need to be worded, “Data collaboration should be key to patient safety.” Unfortunately, it’s a mostly unrealized dream at this point. You might even be able to say that data collaboration will be key to patient safety. There really are amazing use cases where data collaboration can improve the care patients receive. It’s a sad state of affairs that so many of the major EHR companies are dead set on protecting their walled gardens. One has even gone so far as to say that patient safety is in danger with multiple systems. Certainly there are some risks associated with multiple systems, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. In fact, patient safety is at stake thanks to those who won’t participate in healthcare data collaboration.

19 Know how customizable the clinical work flows are!
This is a good tip when doing your EMR selection. It’s incredibly valuable to understand how the EMR handles clinical workflows and how well those workflows fit into your established clinical workflows. I’m a proponent of doing the best you can to use established workflows when implementing an EHR. Then, over time adjusting those workflows as needed to gain more efficiency.

18 How easy is it to customize the system overall?
I’d take this EHR tip from a couple angles. First, is how easily can you customize the EMR system. Yes, some of it could be the EMR workflows that I talked about in EMR Tip #19 above, but it could be a whole set of other options (billing, scheduling, messaging, etc). The second part of this suggestion relates to how well this EHR will adapt to the constantly changing clinical environment. Will they be able to handle ICD-10 without too much pain for you? Will you be able to make it work in an ACO environment? Healthcare is constantly changing and so you want to make sure your EHR can be customized to fit your changing needs.

17 Know work flow can be hard coded to ensure compliance.
There are times when hard coding the workflow is incredibly valuable. Certainly this will frustrate some providers, but if done correctly most will understand the need to hard code the workflow to ensure compliance. It’s a fine line to walk, but there are plenty of instances where hard coded workflows can do wonders to improve the care you provide.

16 Ensure easy access to the system via multiple platforms.
As much as providers might not like checking in on the EMR remotely, it’s often absolutely necessary. So, it’s important to ensure that your EMR is available on every medium possible. Can it be connected to remotely? Does it work on the latest devices? Yes, the iPad has a huge portion of the physician market share right now, but we’ll see how long that lasts. Every year a new device comes out and you’ll want an EMR vendor that’s keeping an eye on this movement and making the EMR available on the best technology.

If you want to see my analysis of the other 101 EMR and EHR tips, I’ll be updating this page with my 101 EMR and EHR tips analysis. So, click on that link to see the other EMR tips.

Reasons to Not Use Virtual Desktop Access to Your EMR on an Ipad

Posted on December 8, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I found this great article which highlights a number of the reasons I’ve been saying that the iPad needs its own native EMR interface and not just some Virtual Desktop solution to access your EMR.

First it offers two reasons why the Virtual Desktop solution is a good option:
-Security
-Cost

The first benefit of security is a good once since as long as your virtual desktop and access to your virtual desktop are secured, then you don’t have to worry about healthcare related data on the iPad. The second benefit is mostly a benefit to the EMR software vendor. Sure, they could make the argument that the price to develop a native iPad app is passed on to the end user. However, most doctors won’t feel that cost. In most cases it just means that other features on the EMR development roadmap will just get pushed back. Although, even this can be a bad strategy if your developers are good at developing EMR software on your current platform, but aren’t familiar with developing a native iPad app. Then, it’s worth spending some money on an iOS developer who knows which features of the iPad they can really leverage.

Now on to the reasons the article suggests that you develop a native iPad app and not just do the virtual desktop solution:
-Doesn’t Make Use of Native iPad Functionality
-Requires Constant Connectivity
-Virtualized Apps are Not Optimized for the iPad

The first and third in the list are very much related and are the biggest reasons why a native iPad EMR app makes so much sense if you’re going to do something on the iPad. The second item actually doesn’t apply very well to an iPad EMR app which even when created as a native app will likely need to have internet connectivity to have any value. An EMR iPad app could be made that didn’t need connectivity, but I have yet to see one that’s done that.

Black Friday Sales Boost mHealth App Predictions

Posted on December 1, 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.

The holiday season is officially upon us, or so said both of my daughters after they saw Santa Claus conclude the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone – not unnoticed by the average American consumer if recently released retail figures are any indication. The economy seems on the verge of a slight upswing, if our holiday spending this early in the season is any indication.

How does healthcare fit into all this? Two holiday headlines recently caught my eye. The first, “Apple Breaks Black Friday Record,” notes that iPad sales “surged 68%” that particular day, breaking the company’s own purported predictions that it would achieve Black Friday sales four times higher than normal. The second, “Mobile Healthcare and Medical App Downloads to Reach 44 Million Next Year, Rising to 142 Million in 2016,” makes the prediction that “[a]cceptance of new healthcare practices like remote patient monitoring will come directly from consumers becoming engaged in mHealth through the smartphone.”

Forty-four million medical app downloads next year might not be such a high number to reach when you take Apple’s record one-day iPad sales into consideration. Physicians and healthcare consumers alike seem to not only be jumping onto the tablet bandwagon, but gearing up to race it to the finish line as well.

So now that we’ve established the healthcare connection, what’s all this got to do with EMRs? Will these predictions and likely outcomes coincide with an upswing in mobile EMR app development? As of yesterday, 60 apps popped up when I searched for “EMR” apps for the iPad in the iTunes store. Forty-seven results came up for “EHR,” many of them the same. I’ll be interested to see what this number is six months and then a year from now.

As this blog has well documented for some time now, healthcare’s love affair with the iPad was a slow burn at first, but has now become fast and furious. I can only imagine that EMR developers will take their relationships with the iPad to the next level in record time just to meet customer demand. While I won’t necessarily be waiting with baited breath for Practice Fusion’s launch next year of its iPad app, I will definitely check it out while at HIMSS, where I assume they’ll give it a Vegas-style launch.

I’d love to hear from physicians as to how inundated the market is likely to become with these types of technologies. And aside from EMR/EHR apps, will mobile health downloads really take off as predicted? Share your own predictions in the comments below.

Full Disclosure: Practice Fusion is an advertiser on this site, but they didn’t pay Jennifer to mention their iPad app. In fact, I’m not even sure if Jennifer knows they’re an advertiser.

Medical Siri on the iPhone and iPad

Posted on November 11, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of my regular physician readers, Brian, left the following comment on my post about the mythology of the Perfect EMR.

The reality is that we are now comparing EMR to our iPhone 4s’s. Our consumer technology is so far ahead of hospital technology that it is jarring and annoying to use work tech. This is what I want: “Siri, give me a differential for elevated amylase. Thank you. Now order CBC, Chem 14, TSH and free T4. Good. Now I will dictate. The patient is a 41 year old man with abdominal pain…”

Certainly we could have a long discussion about the difference in consumer technology and popular healthcare technology. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how many doctors have tried out Siri on their iPhone in order to get healthcare information. I bet this is pretty common. Although, I wonder how good the answers are that Siri gives.

If you’re a medical provider that’s used Siri for accessing health and medical information, I’d love to hear about your experience. I bet there are probably also a bunch of funny experiences trying to use Siri for medical info. I’d love to hear those as well.

Are there ways that “Siri” like technology could and should be implemented in EMR and EHR software?

iPad Adoption in Healthcare in 18 Months

Posted on November 10, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I forgot that I had the following tweet stored in my draft posts. I’m sure you’ll find it as interesting as I did:

That’s really amazing to consider. I guess this idea fed into my post about The Must Have iPad Interface post and the follow up iPad EMR Opportunity.