Mobile apps push more clinical data to smartphones

Here at FierceMobileHealthcare, we're fairly sure a good number of you, our loyal readers, saw the story in the Wall Street Journal last Thursday about how Apple and Research in Motion are making deep inroads into healthcare as doctors ditch pagers in favor of smartphones. (If you haven't seen it, click the link at the bottom of this write-up.) Smartphones have been around for a while, but what's really helped the iPhone and the BlackBerry capture the imagination of healthcare organizations of late has been the vast array of applications available on those platforms. A telling sign is the fact that Palm, once the unquestioned leader of the physician PDA market, refused to comment for the story. When's the last time you heard about a cool new app for the Palm?

Now, as the Journal reports, major provider organizations are deploying smartphones throughout the enterprise. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center issued BlackBerry devices to physicians and nurses in one of its emergency departments and on several surgical floors. With EMTs also carrying BlackBerrys, they can send EKG images and patient vitals to emergency physicians so the ED can be ready to rush heart-attack patients into surgery the moment the ambulance arrives.

In Palo Alto, Calif., Stanford Hospitals & Clinics are testing an iPhone version of their Epic Systems EMR to help prevent errors during patient hand-offs. (Like Palm, Apple declined to talk to the Journal, but that company long has avoided interviews.)

With so much clinical data now moving to smartphones, healthcare privacy hawk Dr. Deborah Peel is concerned. She was quoted briefly in the Journal article, but had more to say in an email to reporters. "Who owns the data on mobil [sic] devices? Who controls the data on mobil [sic] devices? Is the data encrypted or unreadable at rest and in transit? Patients cannot easily find out." While software developers say their products meet HIPAA standards, that's not enough for Peel, who says, "Compliance with HIPAA's weak standards is not reassuring at all."

For more:
- read the Wall Street Journal story