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Mobile Medical Technologies Are Maturing
by Evan Koblentz
March 4, 2010
 
Next time you visit a doctor's office, don't be surprised if she accesses prescription data on her BlackBerry, but don't assume the same technology will be available at your hospital.
 
Monique LevyThat's the state of mobile medical technology, according to Manhattan Research's Monique Levy, senior director of research. However, more compelling applications are currently evolving, Levy stated in her report "Future of Physician Media," released this week to coincide with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Atlanta.
 
Interviewed today, Levy notes that it's important to consider the present before understanding future trends.  "The first big one is just adoption overall... 64% of physicians owned a PDA or smartphone in 2009," compared to just 30% in 2001, 40% in 2004, and 50% in 2007. "We predict it to go to 81% in 2012," she says.
 
"Almost 9 in 10 physicans say the Internet is essential to their practice, and a growing number of physicans are using the Internet during or between the practice of seeing patients," she adds. More of something isn't always better, but, "It suggests that [mobile technology] really is supoorting their workflow rather than weighing it down."
 
Levy also notes that presently the majority of mobile medical applications are merely electronic versions of traditional content, such as data about medicine and patient records. But there's also an increasing use of mobile devices to access patient sensors for everything from diabetes monitors to pregnancy statuses.
 
Device-wise, the most popular setup is native applications on Research In Motion BlackBerry devices. Some vendors offer mobile web sites that can be viewed from any modern browser, and others are beginning to harness the advanced features of touchscreen devices like the Apple iPhone or Google Android systems. New data on the topic is expected next month, Levy says.
 
Also, most mobile adoption happens in small medical offices. Larger environments, such as hospitals, are naturally slower to adapt and have more money invested in trailing-edge and more highly customized systems, she notes.
 
Topics Levy expects to consider this year and in the coming years are the adoption of multitouch tablets, such as Apple's iPad; the kinds of applications that might emerge from the new interfaces; and whether those applications will help or hinder physicians' goals to save money, save time, and ultimately provide better medical care.
 
Examples of mobile healthcare products launched at the HIMSS event this week include the following.
  • Aruba Networks' and Motion Computing's joint development of Motion C5 medical devices with software for unified communications.

  • General Electric's GE Healthcare division has an iPhone application for its Personal Health Manager application. Spokesman Corey Miller says the company is considering other platforms.

  • Gold Standard / Elsevier's Clinical Pharmacology Mobile, which is a web version of the Clinical Pharmacology drug information reference.

  • Humana now has three mobile modules for its MyHumana Mobile web site, including Urgent Care Finder, Mobile Spending Account Balance Viewer, and Mobile Member Information Tool.  The services will be expanded to native applications for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Microsoft Windows Mobile beginning later this month or early next month, Humana IT director Paul Friedman says. Humana also has a new text message service its members can use for checking their spending accounts.

  • Merge Healthcare's eFilm Mobile is offering iPhone and iPod Touch access to eFilm workstations and is offering a 30-day free trial.

  • Nuvon's IDM-MG 1000 device for positive patient identification.

  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an exception to Levy's observation about large enterprises being slower to adopt mobile medical technology, is making patient data available to doctors through BlackBerrys and is testing a data collaboration application.
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