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The iPhone's Possibilities for Healthcare Are Endless
Why does a physician need a camera or iPod? Because doctor + iPhone = better healthcare

Apple’s recent announcement that it is allowing third party developers to create applications on the iPhone will have tremendous effects on the healthcare industry. Healthcare technology applications – particularly electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical decision support (CDS) – will be more likely to be adopted by physicians, translating into better healthcare for patients.

The next time you go to your doctor’s office, check to see if he/she is using an iPhone, along with a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, to evaluate your health. With Apple’s announcement that it is allowing third party developers to create applications on the iPhone, Datamonitor believes that healthcare technology applications – particularly electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical decision support (CDS) – will be more likely to be adopted by physicians, translating into better healthcare for patients.

EHRs allow providers to access all the information on a patient in one place, giving them more information at the point of care. CDS tools help providers sort through the huge amount of patient data and medical literature now available, checking, for example, if the medication they are about to prescribe will interact with a drug the patient is already taking.

Physicians have been slow to adopt EHRs and CDS during the past few years, in part because using a computer in the middle of a patient exam disrupts the dynamic of the patient/provider relationship and it slows down doctors’ normal work patterns. Mobile devices like the iPhone can help alleviate these issues and encourage more doctors to use these new life-saving technologies.

The iPhone, however, stands out from the rest of the currently available devices because of its functionality, easy of use and, quite frankly, appearance. The iPhone’s functionality is undisputed – as a phone, camera, media device and web browser all in one device – who needs anything else? Healthcare providers don’t want to carry around a beeper, hospital-issued phone, cell phone, BlackBerry and Tablet PC with them as they run through the corridors of a hospital. They want to carry around one device that can do everything and that’s what the iPhone is.

Why does a physician need a camera or iPod you might ask? Well, if you go to your primary care physician with a strange rash on your arm, your doctor could, hypothetically, take a picture of it and send it to a dermatologist for a second opinion. If you can’t remember what kind of medication you’re on, but you can remember what it looks like, your doctor can pull up pictures of drugs, right on the iPhone, that fit your description and figure out what you’re taking. For the iPod function, a doctor may want to take a quick refresher course on the different sounds a heart makes when the heart valve isn’t functioning properly. The possibilities are endless.

With no little buttons to push, the iPhone’s touch screen brings easy to use technology to even the most techno phobic provider. Zoom in capabilities (that will be particularly useful when looking at x-rays, MRIs, etc.) and the ability to flick through screens are other features that will make it easier, rather than more difficult, for providers to enter in and sort through patient information. Furthermore, because the iPhone connects to Wi-Fi networks, and most hospitals have or are currently installing Wi-Fi, accessing the internet is easy and fast. Of course, if no wireless internet connection is available, an application on the iPhone will still be able to function. The fact that the iPhone has become a kind of status symbol and is attractive to look at and own doesn’t hurt the prospects for provider adoption either.

Developing an application on the iPhone, as opposed to other mobile devices, allows for increased functionality and innovation as Epocrates, a clinical information and decision support tools company, has already demonstrated. While the current exclusive contract with AT&T is a drawback for end-user adoption, healthcare technology vendors nevertheless should be clamoring to create applications specific to the iPhone. Doctors want to use this device; for the first time, they’re waiting for technology to catch up to them.

About Christine Chang
Christine Chang is an analyst on Datamonitor?s Public Sector Technology team, specifically covering the healthcare industry. Her research focuses on technologies for providers and payers and analysis of the market trends and end-user pain points within this sector. She has considerable experience researching the telehealth and electronic health record markets, having published numerous reports and market forecasts in these areas which detail the challenges of moving these technologies from the early stages of adoption to widespread use. Christine has spoken at the American Telemedicine Association?s 2007 mid-year conference and has been quoted in publications such as Healthcare IT News, Healthcare Informatics and Health Data Management. Prior to joining Datamonitor, she worked at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation where she monitored affiliation contracts, analyzed staffing allocations and revised policies and procedures.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

Many developers are now working on software for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The intuitive interface, high resolution photos, high memory capacity, and ease of synchronization will breathe new life into the use of handheld computers in practice. I have been following the news on my blog at www.healthcarepod.com


Your Feedback
Brent Thompson wrote: Many developers are now working on software for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The intuitive interface, high resolution photos, high memory capacity, and ease of synchronization will breathe new life into the use of handheld computers in practice. I have been following the news on my blog at www.healthcarepod.com
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