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Radiology Daily
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For Mobile Medical Uses, Apps Face Obstacles

December 28, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency Radiology, Practice Management
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The fantasy: A primary-care doctor pulls out her iPad, pulls up a patient’s scans, and huddles with a radiologist, discussing the diagnosis. At the patient’s bedside, she uses the images to help the patient understand his situation. She plugs in an ultrasound probe and checks his heart functioning, sending an image back to the radiologist for a read. She enters a few notes into the patient’s electronic medical record, then moves on to the next case.

The reality: The applications (and sometimes the hardware) to do all of the above either don’t exist or aren’t easily compatible with current electronic medical records software. Wireless coverage at many medical facilities is incomplete, forcing medical personnel to repeatedly log back in as they move through the building. An iPad doesn’t even fit in the pocket of a standard lab coat.

A new Kaiser Health News/NPR report explores those and other obstacles that are keeping tablet computers and other portable devices from fulfilling their potential in clinical settings.

Some doctors don’t think the devices have all that much potential to begin with. Joshua Lee, MD, medical director of information services for UC San Diego Medical Center, said he worries about patient privacy and asked:

Are you ever more than four feet away from a computer in the hospital? Nope. So how is the tablet useful?

On the other hand, Kate Franko, a physician assistant at UC San Diego, said her iPad was a tremendously useful tool. She even employs some of the many available medical apps to check for drug interactions and translate her medical questions into the languages of non–English-speaking patients.

However, she admitted that the technology can occasionally be a little too cool. “Sometimes there are moments when you want to check your e-mail and possibly update your Facebook,” she said, “and it does take willpower to not be distracted and to focus on patient care.”

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Related seminar: Emergency Radiology

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