Epocrates finally launches native iPad app

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 15, 2012        

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epocrates ipad appEpocrates has finally launched a native iPad version of it’s landmark drug information app, up until now a conspicuous and much-discussed omission. The release is part of a larger strategy by CEO Andy Hurd to turn around the struggling company, which posts its second annual loss this year on revenue estimates of about $110 million.

In an October 30 quarterly investor’s call, Hurd mentioned data from Manhattan that suggested Epocrates was the most downloaded iPad app by physicians, despite Epocrates not having a native iPad app. Doctors have been using the iPhone version of the app, viewing it at two times the size on their iPad screens.

The app, released for iPad and iPad mini, is essentially an adapted version of the existing Epocrates iPhone app, but Hurd told MobiHealthNews that the larger screen size allows for new kinds of functionality.

“Inherent in the form factor is that you get greater capability for improved workflow,” he said. “It just takes advantage of larger real estate. The ability to tab between multiple drugs and to search the database more effectively.” A video on Epocrates’ website demonstrates some of the added functionality of the iPad app. For instance, the large screen makes it easier to compare multiple drugs and check drug interactions.

After a beta test, the app went live in the iOS AppStore with a soft launch Monday. The company plans to promote the app’s availability more widely in the next couple of weeks.

The recent release of the iPad mini does improve the timing somewhat, as it’s being perceived as a better device for doctors, largely because it fits in a lab coat pocket. MobiHealthNews reported that trend last month, citing a poll conducted by Epocrates long before the iPad mini’s release. Hurd’s only been CEO at the company for a few months, so he couldn’t say exactly why the iPad version took so long, but he told MobiHealthNews they wanted to get it right.

“It was important to get the app out,” he said. “But also to be thoughtful about it and make sure that we weren’t just shipping a larger version of the iPhone app, but to really take advantage of the real estate.”

He also mentioned Epocrates’ now-abandoned foray into the EHR market, which proved a distraction to the company, although he said it also helped inform the direction of the iPad release. MobiHealthNews reported on a beta launch of a native iPad version of Epocrates’ planned EHR platform in February.

Since Epocrates has refocused on their core product, Hurd has also dropped some hints about future ways Epocrates can leverage its user base, which they place at more than one million clinicians. Hurd suggested that future versions could support customized dashboards for users in different medical specialties. He also said Epocrates is completing a pilot program that, if implemented, would use Epocrates’ database to help doctors match patients to clinical trials, based on the doctor’s specialty and geographic area.

“Our surveying has demonstrated that physicians have a strong desire, upwards of 80 percent, to connect patients with clinical trials. But at a practical level the numbers that actually do are significantly lower than that because it’s a pretty arduous and clumsy process, in terms of actually identifying where trials are and identifying if there’s a fit.” he said. “We’re able to identify and alert a pulmonologist in Raleigh, NC, as an example, of the two or three clinical trials that might be available to them. And as they’re seeing patients they’re able to get an alert that there’s a fit to a clinical trial for that patient.”

In the investor call, Hurd spoke about the Epocrates Design Center, the company’s mobile development group. The group is partially comprised of employees from Modality, a company Epocrates acquired in 2010, and is focused on continuing to innovate mobile design and user experience for future versions of the Epocrates apps.