Sutter Care at Home, the home care affiliate of California-based Sutter Health, deployed electronic health records running on smartphones in its first branch office in Nov. 2009. Now, Sutter is migrating to tablet computers, with about 20 percent of the 1,000 clinicians using the mobile EHR doing so on the new tablets.

Philip Chuang, Ph.D., director of information services at Sutter Care at Home, will co-present a session at HIMSS12 in Las Vegas on the opportunities and challenges of mobile EHR deployment. Security obviously is a challenge, but Chuang has learned to think of the security of mobile devices the same way as security of computers under your control in facilities.

With laptops in a facility, you can turn off unnecessary features, restrict access, monitor what happens on the laptops and if necessary remotely erase the hard drive, Chuang says. The tools exist to do the same with truly mobile devices that are in the field all the time.

Ergonomics is a challenge with mobile devices, particularly smartphones. Even if a person is comfortable texting and surfing on a smartphone, that doesn’t mean the device will be easy to use with an EHR. Physicians and nurses hop on a computer in a facility for a few seconds or minutes to document, and then get off. But a clinician with a smartphone or tablet in the field is documenting for a considerably longer period of time on a small device. “They must think of how they sit, hold or place the device, and not to stare at the device all the time,” Chuang says.

Organizations need to clearly define what they hope to accomplish with an EHR on a mobile device, he advises. “If the objective is to deploy a device as the primary device, then you have to think differently than if it is an additional device. Are your really doing this so work can be done?”

Lecture 47, “EHR to Go: Opportunities and Challenges of Mobile EHR Deployment,” is scheduled on Feb. 21 at 12:15 p.m. More information is available at www.himssconference.org/.

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