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Doctors Using iPhones, iPads for Medical Information


How would you feel if you were rushed into an emergency room and the first thing the doctor pulled out of his or her pocket was an iPhone or iPad instead of a stethoscope? In today’s high-tech world, some doctors say they prefer the former choices to help them access important information instantly, and not only in an emergency situation.

iPhones, iPads, and Doctors

The days of doctors pouring over thick manuals to help them locate critical information are coming to a close as iPhones and other smartphones and iPads push aside the written word. Experts predict doctors will soon have access to electronic patient records on their iPhones and iPads. At Stanford Medical School, all first-year medical and Master of Medicine students will be provided an iPad this fall.

Use of iPhones and iPads in medical settings is a global phenomenon. In Australia, for example, graduate doctors in Victoria will be using iPads in hospital treatment as part of a pilot program. According to health minister Daniel Andrews, “The iPads will allow doctors and nurses to access any web enabled application run by their hospital as they move around the hospital, as well as allowing them to tap into health information resources.”

According to a study conducted by Manhattan Research, 71 percent of doctors consider a smartphone an essential part of their practice, and 84 percent said they believe access to the internet is critical to their work. Monique Levy, senior director of Manhattan Research, noted that “Physicians are opportunistic in finding ways to improve efficiency,” and that iPhones, iPads, and similar technology allow doctors to use mobile apps, collaborate with other physicians and patients, check email, and surf the web.

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In a recent Business Week article, Harry Wang, director of mobile and health research at Park Associates, noted that the use of mobile devices in health care has grown over the past five years and will continue to expand as smartphone use increases. His firm has found that the most commonly used mobile health applications are for fitness and workout programs, finding health news, and nutrition. It also predicts that more than 70 percent of people in the United States will own a smartphone by 2015.

Concerns about Wireless Medical Information
Wang warned that the world of iPhone, iPad and other wireless device use by doctors and other healthcare providers is still developing. Some of the obstacles he believes need to be addressed include the lack of standards, a need for more safety regulations, and more marketing to both doctors and patients.

Another concern is the accuracy of the hundreds of medical apps that are available. Some government officials are wondering whether new regulations are required to make sure digital information is accurate. According to Iltifat Husain, founder of imedicalapps.com, “when it comes to reference medical apps, you really should only trust the ones from the companies that have been in the ecosystem for a while.”

Others have expressed concern that the use of smartphones to exchange medical information could put patients’ privacy at risk. There is also the chance that doctors will be overburdened with data coming in on their wireless devices around the clock.

All in all, Meredith Ressi with Manhattan Research points out that use of devices such as iPhones and iPads provide doctors and other healthcare professionals with critical information and “a whole medical library right in the palm of your hand. It’s really transformative.”

Australian Macworld, August 2, 2010
Business Week, July 29, 2010
Mercury News, August 4, 2010