The concept of a patient having to wait an extended period of time between arriving at the hospital and the start of an investigation using information from that person’s physician is quickly becoming outdated. For example, in the case of an expectant mother, medical records can be called up electronically – even from a physician’s iPhone. In addition, the technology now exists for a doctor to monitor a fetus heartbeat, long-distance, once the mother has been connected to the hospital’s monitor. This can be accomplished no matter where the doctor might be located at the time.
Imagine a doctor who has been contacted at home regarding a potential problem with a patient’s EKG and who doesn’t even need to leave the house to make a real-time observation. This can now be done by creating a link between a physician’s tablet computer or other mobile electronic devices (such as smartphones) to the hospital’s electronic medical records system. The goal is to extend the reach of the doctor beyond the limitations of the hospital.
An example of this new trend can be seen in Green Bay’s Bellin Health facility which is in the process of a migration to an EMR system known as “Epic”.
The Epic system is currently developing various applications that are designed specifically for portable electronic devices such as iPads, Android smartphones and iPhones. According to Bellin’s director of information and services, Troy Schiesl; “We have a hardware assessment team that is looking at all the technology right now.” He further indicated that approximately half of the health system has been converted over to the new system with the expectation of completion by the summer of 2012.
Schiesl also noted that a hardware fair is to be held for physicians, at the end of August, in order to familiarize them with the pros and cons of the new information technology. The ultimate goal, according to Schiesl, is to get the correct information to caregivers as quickly as possible. This is the focus of information technological advancement.
“Whether that’s putting more devices in the right places or extending use of various mobile devices,” he said. “We view it as a positive development to be able to provide those solutions. It’s something we’re going to continue to see growing faster over the next two years.”
Accessing EMR though mobile applications is also considered a way to extend the value of the investments that hospitals have made in EMR technology. In 2010, hospitals in North America have invested $7.4 billion in EMR technology, according to the consultant Accenture. In addition, the 2009 stimulus act has promised $50 billion over the next five years to those providers in the government and private sectors who are moving over to EMR.