Sneak peek: athenahealth's iPhone app, iPad plans

By Brian Dolan

Athenahealth iPhone appThese days most every EHR vendor has a smartphone app. Athenahealth has been one notable hold out, but that is set to change in the coming months.

At the HIMSS conference in Las Vegas, a demo at the athenahealth booth showed off the company's plans for an iPhone and iPod Touch app that will gives its EHR users access to certain features of its athenaClinicals cloud-based platform. The company said it began developing the app late last year. The app is currently in "alpha," but athena expects to release a beta version of the app in April and plans to invite more customers to test the software out then. A full launch of the athenahealth web-based mobile app is set for some time around June.

An Apple iPad version of the web-based athenahealth EHR app is also currently under development and set to launch in 2013. The iPad app will likely offer the full functionalities of the EHR, according to the company. The iPad version is intended for physicians who bring the device into the exam room with them.

Both mobile offerings will be freely accessible to existing athenahealth clinicals users and will not require any additional fees.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given athenahealth's cloud-based offerings, neither app will be native to the iOS devices. Users will log in to access them through their iOS device browsers, just like they do from their desktops. The mobile apps offer the same security standards as athena net clients, according to the company. The app will also automatically log users out if they remain in active for a certain amount of time to prevent lost or stolen devices from leading to security breaches.

Company officials working at the athena booth at HIMSS said that the iPhone app is not meant to be a replacement for the desktop version. It's just meant to help physicians have easier access for out of work activities.

The app includes access to patient cases, labs and images, urgent tasks, patient encounters, orders and e-prescribing, and more. When accessed via the mobile app, patient cases only show active allergies and current medications, users have to go to athena net to see a full history. Athena said its alpha testers find the ability to access their clinical inbox, which includes phone messages, lab results, and other documents physicians need to sign off on, as one of the most useful features.

One of the apps most recent additions enables users to refill patients' medications and add new medication prescriptions. The app includes drug-to-drug alerts, drug-to-allergy alerts, and drug-to-problem alerts, too. Athena typically updates its software every four to six weeks so it expects the mobile app's features to evolve quickly based on its users feedback.

So, why is athenahealth only now coming out with mobile versions of its cloud-based offerings? The company took its time to make sure the user interface worked for its users. iPad users will have to wait until 2013 for an athena user interface designed specifically for that platform, but until then there's always Citrix.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit is brought to you by IQMax.

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