Apple’s iPad is making rounds in healthcare. Its ergonomic design, long battery life and beautiful user interface (UI) gives other tablets a run for their money. As the iPad is grows in popularity among physicians, more and more EHR vendors are releasing iPad-specific versions of their EMRs. Some offer native iPad EMRs; others offer Web-browser access through the iPad. However, there is no perfect iPad EMR solution. Each type of deployment has it benefits and drawbacks. In this guide we review the three main iPad EMR options:
Web-based EMRs. These systems are used through a Web browser, and can therefore be accessed using the iPad’s Safari browser. They are great for many reasons.
Remote access EMRs. Most client/server, on-premise EMRs can be accessed from a remote system, including iPads, through utilities like Citrix. This isn’t ideal, but it works.
Native iPad EMRs. These are probably what you want most—a slick app developed just for the iPad—but the options are very limited so far. You might have to wait.
Until more native iPad EMRs hit the market, we think physicians are best off using Web-based EMRs. There are a number of viable Web-based systems on the market, so physicians will be able to find one that has capabilities for their size and type of practice (e.g. WebPT for physical therapists). Additionally, many Web-based EMR vendors have received ONC-ATCB certification. This is a requirement for doctors that want to receive HITECH Act funds.
To see a full list of options, visit our Web-based EMR guide.
As noted in our table above, several leading vendors offer remote access to their EMR. Using this deployment model, your EMR runs on a server (likely in your IT closet), but is remotely displayed on the iPad over a network. There isn’t really an EMR application running on the iPad. Instead, the remote access application is allowing you to view the application as if you were at a desktop or laptop. This approach will allow you to access Allscripts, GE Centricity or any other number of major EMR systems. However, you’ll be seeing the usual Windows UI, not an iPad interface. This means you’re not taking full advantage of the iPad’s slick UI (the reason you bought the iPad to begin with). It’s a little kludgy, but it works.
The third option is to purchase a native iPad EMR app. However, options are fairly limited; we’ve only identified a few such native apps, including: Dr. Chrono, Nimble, Mediforms, MediMobile, IQMax and Capzule EMR. Dr. Chrono and Nimble are the most impressive (and attractive). They do the kind of stuff the iPad was designed to do. For example, Nimble has an application called “Medical Art.” It allows doctors to view and mark up images (e.g., X-Rays, EKGs and anatomical diagrams) with the swipe of a finger. It’s a great tool for educating patients and communicating diagnoses. Meanwhile, Dr. Chrono has a slick ePrescribing feature. Through a series of single screen-taps, doctors can pull up patient charts, view a list of common prescriptions (or perform a search for others) and send prescriptions to patients’ preferred pharmacies, all without leaving the exam room.
These systems make great use of the design elements that lead to a fluid user experience on the relatively smaller, touch-enabled screens of tablets. (To read more about general design considerations when it comes to EHRs, see our guide on medical software interfaces.)
Unfortunately, native iPad EMRs can have drawbacks too. Many have limited functionality. Physicians can perform basic tasks such as capture billing charges, view a patient record or track patient schedules. But, some native iPad EMRs don’t offer a complete set of features that other Web-based and on-premise EMRs offer. This is mostly due to the fact that these apps are new to the market. It took years, even decades, for the leading EMRs to offer the depth of functionality they now offer. iPad app start-ups aren’t going to catch up any time soon.