By Raul Villar, president, ADP AdvancedMD 

According to Manhattan Research, more than 60% of physicians now use either the iPad, iPhone, or iPod and 30% have used one of these devices on the job. It’s not a surprise that physicians seek to leverage these mobile devices to become untethered from their desks. In particular, practices in the solo to ten-physician range have been very vocal about how they want mobility to improve their practices’ communications and help optimize medical outcomes, including getting data and inputting data to Electronic Health Records (EHR’s).

Only two years ago, the freedom currently being enabled by mobile devices, particularly the iPad, was considered futuristic. At that time, PriceWaterhouseCoopers asked 1,000 physicians what they were interested in using mobile technology for: 86% said accessing EHRs; 83% were interested in prescribing medication, and 74% wanted to monitor patients in hospitals. For smaller practices, the first two are perhaps the most important.

Those preferences still hold true. Breaking it down further by function, here are some specific interest drivers among today’s physicians:

  • Freedom from the desk while working, particularly in the morning hours, during lunch, and after dinner
  • Ability to schedule from anywhere
  • Ability to communication with patients
  • Simple, intuitive experience

Those that have experienced the power of iPads also prioritize the following technology benefits:

  • Ability to instantly power up and access information, so they can provide meaningful decisions while on a short phone call with a patient.
  • Ability to securely message other physicians and practice members – the “front and back” office
  • Optimized ease of login

As these functions are added to various software applications, physicians have responded. Doctors are now using mobile access to see information on patients and schedules, review messages, and see patient medical histories, lab orders, prescriptions, etc.  One physician used the example of being able to get work done while at their son’s baseball game.

This approach shows that doctors don’t want to completely replace their desktop EHRs with an app. They want to maintain the simplicity and stability of their workflow while adding mobility. Based on recent input from our physician counsel, here’s what we heard cited as the most important functions for mobile apps:

  1. The ability to perform clinical duties like completing a simple patient note, viewing a lab result, or accessing patient history.
  2. The ability to access schedules quickly and intuitively without having to change office workflow or compromise security. For instance, using a scheduler on a mobile platform that is similar to familiar office scheduler software.
  3. Untethering from their desks with the ability to access patient history, notes and problem lists, as well as securely message others in the practice.
  4. Charge slip entry on the go to help optimize practice revenue. As one of the biggest requests from physician practices, charge slip entry should be simple and intuitive, provide procedure and diagnosis codes, the ability to add modifiers, and the ability to save a “draft” version for completion and submission later. The more charges that can be submitted immediately, the better the revenues of the practice will be.

As mobile devices become even more popular with physicians, there will be the tendency to overload mobile devices with applications. This could be disastrous; mobile devices need to remain simple and accessible to enable physicians to maintain their workflow from any location. Only in this way can physicians avoid being tied down by a new burden: application overload, rather than continue to improve their agility and their ability to provide great patient care.

About the Author

Raul Villar is president of ADP AdvancedMD, a leader in all-in-one, cloud electronic health record (EHR), practice managementmedical scheduling software, and billing applications for medical practices and medical billing services. A 22-year veteran of ADP, Villar has held numerous senior level positions, most recently as ADP’s Senior Vice President of Major Account Sales, an organization that provides HR, benefits and payroll services to mid-sized organizations. In this role he led a team of 1,500 associates who deliver $300 million in annual new business sales.