EHR mak­ers’ mo­bile med­i­cal apps grow in pop­u­lar­ity

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Joseph Conn

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.

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