Six questions for mHealth analyst Cora Sharma

By Brian Dolan
06:31 pm

MIM Mobile iPhone AppThis week Chilmark Research released its long-awaited report on mHealth in the Enterprise: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges. Chilmark Lead Analyst Cora Sharma spearheaded the report, which focused on those mobile apps that tie into hospital information systems. (N.B. Chilmark is offering MobiHealthNews readers $100 off the report's sticker price if you use the code "mobi" and purchase before year-end.)

This week MobiHealthNews had a chance to discuss some of the report's findings with Sharma in an interview:

This report focused on a specific group of apps for healthcare providers -- can you explain how you defined this group?

We wanted to look at the specific areas that would become important as we move toward 2014, which is when we will really move away from fee-for-service and toward pay-for-performance and ACOs. [Chilmark Research Principal John Moore] and I set about to focus on apps that would really help organizations focus on internal efficiencies, quality and certain aspects of meaningful use. We also looked at an "other" category of apps, which included apps related to imaging, patient education, asynchronous communication apps for nurses and remote monitoring apps. The core focus though was on EHR apps, CPOE and others that were more pertinent for meaningful use.

Did any surprises come up during your research? Were any of your preconceived notions challenged?

The stereotype that physicians don't like technology was certainly challenged. The idea that they are "technophobic" certainly doesn't apply when you look at mobile. Whether in their practices or in the larger facilities, physicians have been using mobile technology for a longer period of time than almost anyone else. They are extreme early adopters. Physicians have been using the content apps especially, like Epocrates, Medscape or Skyscape, for a long time. And they didn't need any incentive payments to do that. That's one surprise.

Along the same lines, though, it's also impressive how quickly physicians are adopting the iPad. What is it? One in five is going to have an iPad by the end of this year. It's amazing how in love they are with the iPad. That was also surprising to me.

Was that a figure from the report -- one in five?

That's based on secondary research and our conversations with doctors. It is definitely a certain type of physician -- like the hospitalists. These are physicians that are extremely mobile and visiting many different hospitals and their office, too. They really depend on these devices. These physicians feel restrictive by having to find terminals and this is in huge hospital facilities. Administrators had spent all this money on putting in terminals, but the doctors still couldn't find one when they really needed them. With tablets these physicians have this freedom to access information from anywhere.

It's good to hear that the interest in the iPad among physicians is not all hype and that reports like this based on what's going on in the field have proven it out, too. I wonder though -- the iPad gets a lot of flack for not being an "enterprise-class" device. This study focused on apps that tie into hospital information systems. So, is it the right device?

Right, you hear that same thing over and over again: It lacks a camera. It can't be dropped. Can't disinfect it. Then again if you look at the numbers, people are definitely using the iPad with these limitations. Cases are coming out to make it more droppable. I read a post by Halamka that said this is the closest thing to the ideal form factor, but it's not perfect.

The iPad can handle these operational type apps though?

In terms of bi-directional apps, not all physicians want to be able to do data entry on their iPads. For those that do, they can write their notes, place orders and more. Those apps are available... Many IT departments will have physicians use a Citrix server to run HIS apps. There's a trade off there though. The IT departments want to deploy something that is secure and that doesn't break the hospital's budget. Doctors just want something that is usable and that might mean storing data on the device to make it more usable. The IT department is generally very happy to deploy these receivers because they are really easy to deploy and they are cost effective and don't store any data on the device. Some physicians are OK using it while others are appalled at seeing Windows UI on an iPad.

The headline for this report was $1.7 billion by 2014. What could prevent that market opportunity from being realized? What's the biggest challenge?

Physicians will tell you over and over that their needs are not being met. They say: Vendors' offerings are too meager. We keep hearing about these vendors being immature. This immature vendor market hitting up against customers who want customized solutions. They often threaten to just do it in-house themselves. We hear the same things in the EMR market, too. That's one of the big challenges.

Thanks, Cora.

Head over to Chilmark Research for more on the report

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