One of the single biggest complaints that we hear from Physicians when referring to their EHR system is how computers take away from the personal side of patient care. All too often docs are now forced to dig through various screens, and drop down menus while they type in copious amounts of data during patient encounters. Traditionally, doctors could easily maintain eye contact with their patient while they jotted notes into a medical record using a pen and paper, but EHR interfaces have complicated that process.
In the last couple of years we’ve seen mobile apps and smart phones bring many efficiencies to the medical exam room. For example, an app that we built on behalf of the American College of Physicians, ACP Immunization Advisor, helps clinicians get up-to-date vaccine information quickly and efficiently. The free iPhone app, which provides several ways to filter the CDC Immunization Schedule for specific patient needs, can help a physician save valuable time in a patient visit by providing a comprehensive, up-to-date list of vaccine recommendations in seconds. Not only is this far more efficient then trying to navigate through the paper-based CDC schedule, but it provides the clinician with piece-of-mind as the app is updated frequently to stay on top of changes in the guidelines that won’t be reflected in a paper copy unless they download, and reprint them frequently.
Apps like the ACP Immunization Advisor are great examples of ways we can bring new efficiencies to medicine, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. One of the great advantages that Apple Watch will bring to the table is the ability for a clinician to access all of that great functionality in their smart phone, without ever having to remove it from their pocket. With the release yesterday of iOS 8.2, newer iPhones (Apple Watch is compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus) will now have the capability to tether with Apple Watch. Developers can now build watch based interfaces to allow for easy access to information that’s literally at arm’s length. Bringing data to the physicians wrist will help to reduce the need to stare into a screen, and it helps free up both hands from having to physically hold a device.
Although the interface may be small, the Apple Watch is fully voice control enabled with Siri, meaning apps can be controlled hands free. From the looks of the interface, this watch seems to have reinvented usability for such a small screen (another forward-thinking move by Apple). When looked at as an extension of the iPhone, the Apple Watch has great potential to help clinicians have more face-to-face interaction with their patients while they are leveraging technology. It also opens the door for apps to enter other areas of medicine, like surgery, where a doctor is unable to physically interact with a smart phone due to the physical constraints of surgical gloves, and of course sanitary reasons. An Apple Watch would allow a surgeon to access powerful apps in their smartphone without ever having to touch it.
In 2013 AmericanEHR conducted a report titled “Mobile Usage in the Medical Space” which set out to better understand health practitioners usage of technology in the medical space. Some key findings included:
- 77% of physicians who’s adopted an EHR use a smartphone
- On average, physicians who have adopted an EHR conduct 11.2 activities per week on their smartphone in a clinical setting
- 51% of doctors with smartphones use apps on a daily basis for clinical purposes
- Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) of iPhone users are very likely to recommend their iPhone compared to just 26% of non-iPhone users