Epocrates unveils beta version of native iPad EHR app

By: Neil Versel | Feb 23, 2012        

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HIMSS EHR iPad infographic_EpocratesEpocrates is taking the occasion of HIMSS12, which has brought upwards of 35,000 people to Las Vegas this week, to debut a native iPad version of its ambulatory electronic health record.

“You just can’t take a desktop mentality and apply it to mobile,” Epocrates chief medical information officer Dr. Thomas Giannulli told MobiHealthNews in explaining why the San Mateo, Calif.-based vendor is doing more than just extending its Web-based or even iPhone software to meet the growing demand for iPad software from physicians.

Giannulli said he was aware of the failed experiment running a desktop EHR on iPads at Seattle Children’s Hospital last year. In that case, the hospital used the iPad’s Chrome browser essentially as a Citrix emulator, and the Cerner software was not optimized to display information on a 9.7-inch screen. (Cerner, like other enterprise systems vendors, is said to have a native iPad app in the works itself.) “You’ve got to get the software right,” he said.

The Epocrates iPad EHR, released in beta this week, is built to replicate the “rich data entry” of EHR drop-down menus that create documentation based on user clicks, Giannulli said, except that the iPad version uses screen touches instead of mouse clicks. The app takes advantage of the finger-swipe capabilities to “stack” elements of a patient’s record or a list of multiple patients for easier viewing.

This new product can link to the Epocrates software-as-a-service cloud in real time, or cache data locally. For the sake of security, users can only store EHR information on the iPad for a maximum of 449 patients, and any local data are encrypted and “extinguishes” after a set period of time if not uploaded to the Epocrates Web host, Giannulli explained. It saves and syncs automatically to the Web-based Epocrates EHR Web product, so doctors can edit entries on a computer with a real keyboard if they so choose.

Electronic prescribing and lab integration are built in. “We’re obviously going to leverage our Epocrates database when it comes to drugs,” Giannulli said. However, the beta release does not incorporate the Epocrates visual Pill ID feature yet. “We leverage the stuff that docs use most, which is the drug monographs,” he explained.

Though the iPad EHR can function as a standalone system, “It is probably an adjunct to the Web-based product,” according to Giannulli, primarily for use at the point of care.

For all the work Epocrates has done in mobility over the years, this actually is the first app the company has specifically designed for the iPad. An iPad app for the core Epocrates reference system is still in the works, Giannulli said.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of HIMSS12 is brought to you by IQMax. HIMSS EHR iPad infographic_Epocrates