EHR makers’ mobile medical apps grow in popularity
For the third straight year, Epocrates was the most popular tool in the annual Modern Healthcare reader survey on the Most Important Mobile Medical Applications.
More than 2 out of 10 respondents said they used Epocrates at work, making it No. 1 in a field of 132 different products named by readers this year.
Of those 132 products, 94 received just one vote apiece as a favorite, indicating the diversity of mobile apps in clinical and personal use by readers.
Developers of three of the top 10 mobile apps are best known for selling mainline electronic health-record systems to physicians and hospitals. That suggests that mobile app development is fast becoming a survival skill in today’s health IT market.
Readers said they still use the venerable Epocrates mobile tool primarily as a prescription drug reference. That was its original function when it was launched in 1999 by a company founded by Jeff Tangney and Dr. Richard Fiedotin, who were then MBA students at Stanford University. Readers lauded Epocrates for its ease of use and ability to quickly provide information about drug interactions and offer correct dosing calculations. Survey respondents also liked that they could use it to “contact manufacturers to ask product-related questions.” And they like the base price—free.
For the second straight year, Medscape was the mobile medical app ranked second by our readers, who said they use it chiefly as a medical information reference. Practitioners who said they are interested in keeping abreast of current research, practices and news turned to Medscape, as did providers seeking continuing medical education. “I can learn and get CMEs during downtime without having to be locked down to a computer or classroom,” one respondent said.
EHR developer Epic Systems Corp. ranked third, with various mobile apps. Epic brands its apps based on what each tool was optimized for, including for operating systems, mobile devices or Web browsers. But Epic’s apps all have similar functions, giving clinicians access to their EHRs or enabling them to communicate back and forth with patients via Epic’s Web portal. Tied for fifth in the survey were medical reference apps UpToDate and WebMD.
Athenahealth, Watertown, Mass., a developer of a Web-based EHR, practice-management sys- tem and revenue-cycle-management service for office-based physicians, bought its way into the top rank of our readers’ mobile app hierarchy when it completed the purchase of Epocrates in 2013 for a reported $293 million. Athena also has turned its development efforts to engaging patients via mobile technology, building a “mobile-enabled” patient portal (See accompanying story).
Taking its place in a tie for ninth on the survey was another EHR developer, Chicagobased Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, maker of health IT systems for hospitals and physician practices.
The ability to build mobile apps and link to other developers’ apps are necessities for EHR developers, said Rich Berner, president of Allscripts’ international operations and general manager of its Sunrise business unit, which includes the Sunrise Mobile MD line of apps for Apple devices. Sunrise apps were cited by several survey respondents.
Berner said his company has been investing a lot of money in mobile technology. Clinicians are using their personal devices to bank, book travel and communicate with their colleagues and family members. “We’re seeing that physicians more and more are moving away from computers to mobile devices,” he said “Even laptops are heavy and people are moving to tablets.”
Sumit Rana, Epic’s chief technology officer, said clinicians can make multiple mobile connections to their hospital’s or group practice’s Epic EHR, as well as exchange messages with patients through their MyChart patient portal by using Epic’s Haiku app for Apple and Android smartphones, or its Canto app for iPads.
Clinicians also can connect to the EHR using a browser-equipped mobile device via a Web link called EpicCare, Rana said. Meanwhile, patients can connect with their clinicians, including via video conferences, through MyChart. They also can move data to the patient portal from their mobile health apps and monitoring devices using the Apple HealthKit platform. “Doctors are demanding it,” Rana said.
Sumit Rana, Epic Systems Corp.’s chief technology officer, says doctors are demanding more mobile-friendly technology.