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.

John Luo, MD

John Luo, MD

“We used to use these drug interaction tables. I might have the patient on Paxil and Risperdol, for example, and the two drugs interact. With Epocrates, you have all the patient’s medications with all their interactions in hand,” says Luo. Interaction checkers include an intravenous drug compatibility screen. The Essentials software enables the UCLA team to scan for drugs, their appropriate dosages, forms the drug comes in, and milligrams available per dose. The software references an infectious disease treatment guide, disease monographs, health plan formularies, pill IDs, pill pictures, and alternative medicines. The company co-authored the software’s disease reference information with the BMJ Group (the British Medical Journal).

Luo uses the software regularly to look up medication pricing and to determine whether a generic form is less expensive and whether the patient’s health plan covers it. “I know that if I prescribe Lexapro for a patient with Aetna insurance, it will cost them $80 per month,” Luo illustrates.

iPhone launch, other software

Epocrates Essentials is now available on the iPhone. In addition to Essentials, the software vendor offers Epocrates Rx, Epocrates Rx Pro, and Epocrates Essentials Deluxe for mobile devices. All products will be available for the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the BlackBerry Storm as well as Palm and Win Mobile devices by late summer.

Epocrates Rx software offers drug descriptions, formularies, an interaction checker, and pictures of pills. Rx Pro also includes a disease treatment guide, herbal medicines, and the IV drug compatibility screen. The Essentials product is necessary for access to additional features.

Essentials Deluxe is the most feature- rich Epocrates offering. With the Deluxe version, physicians have access to ICD-9 and CPT codes (20,000 codes and counting) via “the Coder” to ensure reimbursement.

The most important feature may be practicality. “The Epocrates user interface is intuitive and easy for any medical practitioner to use from the first day. You can get to information quickly with a minimal number of clicks on the device. This makes teaching other doctors and medical students to use it a simple process,” says Luo.

Access to drug and disease information is also available—apart from mobile devices—via the internet at


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