Apps make it possible

From education to communication, a variety of medical apps enrich patient and physician experiences.

By David Geer | Summer 2011 | Tech Notes


DEVELOPERS ARE INCREASINGLY WRITING mobile apps that operate on and across multiple platforms. Mobile apps for doctors, which are available on a variety of devices including Android phones, the iPhone, iPad and Blackberry, reflect that trend. We’ve explored the practical benefits of certain mobile medical apps as observed by physicians working in the trenches.

The Heart Pro    [ iPhone: $9.99; iPad: $17.99 ] 

The Heart Pro app, a 3-D interactive reference tool of the human heart.

The Heart Pro app helps users understand the anatomy of a heart as they rotate, cut open and label it on screen.

The Heart Pro app is a 3-D interactive reference tool depicting the anatomy of the human heart. Designed by cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, The Heart Pro presents 3-D images of all heart components, enabling physicians to rotate the visual representations, cut them open and label sections of the heart via touchscreen. The app comes with controls for accessing an index of English and Latin terms, transparent heart layers, animations and quizzes.

Lacy E. Harville III, M.D., a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon in Knoxville, Tenn., who performs up to 1,400 cardiac operations annually, uses the app to educate nursing staff and demonstrate the heart’s anatomy and functions to patients.

“Nurses and staff assisting in arduous cardiac operations are not always certain what they are looking at, even though you as a cardiac surgeon are certain,” says Harville.

Harville likes the fact that he can have people looking over his shoulder as he educates them using 3-D images of a moving heart, transecting it to reveal the valves. “Any time patients can better understand the operation they are about to undergo or what their heart problem is, it helps,” says Harville.

Harville is particularly pleased that the application developers are working on 3-D images of abnormal hearts so he can explain these abnormalities to patients. more »


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Transcription gone high-tech

Emdat’s DaRT enables EMR auto-population—sans data entry

By David Geer | Spring 2011 | Tech Notes


Congressional Budget Office forecasts predict that approximately 90 percent of physicians will be using health IT, which includes EMRs, by 2019 as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But according to a recently published white paper from the AC Group, a healthcare technology consultancy in Montgomery, Texas, it can take a physician an average of 140 minutes per day to fill EMRs using standard data entry. That adds up to hundreds of hours per year of additional tedium for the physician, whose time is clearly better spent seeing patients.

A new technology, Discrete Reportable Transcription (DRT), enables physicians to populate EMRs without the burden of extra typing. DRT technology transforms physician dictations into well-defined notes that it can then insinuate into the EMR automatically, dropping each piece of data neatly in its predetermined space.

Physicians seeking to maintain or increase their availability in the era of EMRs should investigate EMR technologies where DRT technology supplementation has occurred.

Emdat is one example of a popular dictation technology that incorporates DRT to make EMR population seamless. more »


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Robots can extend a physician’s reach and expertise

Through advances in telemedicine, in-demand specialists can reach those in need without having to transport the patient—or the physician—to other facilities.

By By David Geer | Fall 2010 | Tech Notes


Today, telemedicine enables physicians to extend their presence and reach to multiple locations in the form of robots that see, hear, speak and interact with patients and staff.

InTouch Health has the only FDA-cleared remote presence (RP) products on the market, such as the RP-7i (and predecessor RP-7), which connect directly to Class II medical devices including electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and ultrasound. This enables physicians to diagnose and consult with patients from a distance.


Thanks to the robotic technology, specialists in demand for stroke, ICU care and pediatrics reach patients they otherwise might not. Burn victims, heart patients, psychiatric patients and trauma patients benefit as well.



To accomplish examinations and consultations, the robot's head pans and tilts, giving the doctor a complete view of his surroundings. The robot's camera, monitor/display, microphone and speaker extend the doctor's natural senses while ensuring that the doctor is seen and heard, as well.

For example, the Brooke Army Medical Center Burn ICU employs the robots to assess burn victims from as far away as Baghdad, says Jennifer Neisse, marketing communications manager for InTouch Health, headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif. The robot’s camera zooms in from multiple angles on skin sections affected with burns for accurate, immediate examination.

Cardiologists facilitate distant monthly cardiology and echocardiogram consults through the robots. Remote hospital staff plug ultrasound devices directly into the robot’s video ports for the cardiologist’s use. Trauma units use the robots to make up for the shortage of trauma doctors. And psychiatrists reach out to rural areas through the robots, providing consultations.

PracticeLink spoke with three physicians specializing in neurology and pediatrics who have made extensive use of RP robots.

Neurologist offers urgent care robotically

Dr. Paul M. Vespa, M.D., director of the Neurocritical Care Program at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, has relied on the RP-7 and now the RP-7i remote presence robots for a total of more than five years. Vespa uses the robots in the neuro ICU as he visits, diagnoses and treats neurosurgical and stroke patients.

Via the RP-7i model, Vespa speeds down clinic and hospital hallways at the patient’s side as staff transport them on gurneys.

Three balls in the robot’s base, each one six inches in diameter, enable this precise locomotion. Motors drive the balls, which also spin passively when following another ball’s lead. The robots maneuver accurately in tight spaces without bumping into walls or people.

In the big picture, the robots help Vespa address the shortage of ICU practitioners available to physically enter the ICU. When needed, Vespa drives the RP-7i model robots into the neuro ICU to offer immediate care to critical stroke victims.

To accomplish examinations and consultations, the robot’s head pans and tilts, giving the doctor a complete view of his surroundings. The robot’s camera, monitor/display, microphone and speaker extend the doctor’s natural senses while ensuring that the doctor is seen and heard, as well. The robot’s audio capabilities enable the physician to tune in to specific sounds or conversations, as if he were in the room himself.

The RP-7i brings Vespa up close to observe and monitor patient response to medicines and treatments in real time. “Rather than ordering a medicine and coming back the next day to see whether it worked, I can see that right away,” he says.

This saves time for the patients, speeds care as the doctor shifts treatment to another medicine more quickly, and even changes outcomes. “By moving more quickly to an approach that works, we can save the patient’s life,” Vespa says.


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iPads, Notebooks and Netbooks thrive in medicine

Physicians are on the move toward mobile computing.

By David Geer | Summer 2010 | Tech Notes


Several mobile computing devices have appeared on the landscape, offering physicians increased facility while on the go. The devices are steadily growing in popularity in many industries, but especially in health care. We’ve had the opportunity to review three tablet/notebook combinations and hear from physicians who actually use them in their day-to-day work environments:

The iPad

Physicians take advantage of the new Apple iPad, leveraging its efficiency, mobility and screen size. The device enables doctors to view Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), sign off on labs and prescriptions, and apply software once available only on the iPhone and iPod Touch. And the medical scenarios for iPad are expanding. For example, physicians can share the iPad’s 9.7-inch touch screen with patients as they review information about diagnoses and treatments important to the individual’s care.

The iPad has applications in medical education, as well. Charese Pelham, MD, an anesthesiologist in Moultrie, Ga., has at least two medical students assigned to her on a daily basis at the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, a teaching hospital and trauma center. When a student who has not seen a regional anesthesia administered is preparing to join Pelham in the procedure, that student logs onto the iPad to view a video demonstration for additional training.

Pelham also teaches on the iPad using popular apps from the iPhone and iPod Touch that include the ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) Advisor and ACLS Simulator. The Advisor outputs the precise action that the doctor should take for a given set of symptoms. The Simulator enables doctors to simulate a medical emergency code procedure. With the larger screen, more students can watch a simulation at once from a single device.

Steve Updegraff, MD, in St. Petersburg, Fla., specializes in LASIK and cataract surgery. “We want to keep the patient experience on the cutting edge and remove bulky portable DVD players,” says Updegraff on his use of the iPad. Rather than handing patients the heavier portable DVD players, Updegraff hands patients the iPad for a close-up and more highly detailed viewing of short educational videos about the powerful technology involved in his procedures.

Updegraff’s patients also use the iPad to surf the Internet while they are waiting. The iPad offers a touch screen keyboard, available within the display, as well as a keyboard docking station.



Practice-Friendly Apps for Your iPhone

Sync up with these applications to save yourself time and maybe even lives.

By David Geer | Fall 2009 | Tech Notes


Practice-Friendly Apps for Your iPhone

Practice-Friendly Apps for Your iPhone

Twice as many physicians are using iPhones this year, compared to the number of physician-users from only one year ago, according to an April 14th news release by Manhattan Research, LLC—a pharmaceutical and healthcare market research firm. As we take a look at applications (“apps”) for fetal, heart, and general patient care, you may begin to see what they have to offer ‘twice as many’ of you. more »




Medical Software Goes Mobile

More physicians are implementing these hi-tech products, which save patients, slash costs and curtail time.

By David Geer | Summer 2009 | Tech Notes


Devices such as the iPhone provide the medical software you're used to—whereever you are.

A drug interaction application on the Apple iPhone

What physician wouldn’t love a product that allows access to broad range of medical reference information and comprehensive patient data? Add to that the time-saving feature of increased hospital rounding speed, as well as charge capturing accuracy, and you have a “dream product.” Several such software products are now available, and they’re quickly becoming an indispensible element of physicians’ daily practice.

Epocrates proves “Essential” at UCLA

John Luo, MD, teaches those who practice in an academic medical setting. He is the associate director of psychiatric training at UCLA. He is required to use Epocrates Essentials, a comprehensive medical information resource for mobile devices. “It is a budgeted item,” Luo says.

Epocrates Essentials enables Luo and students to check on lab work and norms for the hospital while on the move. It also enables him to arrive at virtual diagnoses and to check multiple drug interactions for patients.

more »


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Wearable High-Tech Professional Gear

New technology you can wear or use every day is gaining popularity among medical professionals.

By David Geer | November/December 2008 | Tech Notes


Scott eVest

Scott eVest

High-tech clothes may not make the doctor, but they make your workday. From coats and vests with seamless pockets for every device to wearable wireless communication badges and computer access cards, designers have fashioned these high-tech garments and accessories to put your schedule and bedside manner into high gear:

Scott eVest coats and vests

As a medical researcher, Jeffrey D. Rothstein MD, PhD, director of the Brain Science Institute Neurotranslation Program at Johns Hopkins University, travels frequently on business. To make flights and boarding fast and productive, he never leaves the ground without his vests, coats, and jackets from Scott eVest (SeV). more »




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