Epic makes another play for mHealth access to EHRs

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund
10:50 am

In some hospitals, administrators might soon be able to check the EHR to determine if a patient's bed has been made.

That's the upshot of a partnership announced between Epic and Vocera Communications that ties the latter's mobile communications capabilities into the former's EHR platform. And it marks just the beginning of an ambitious plan to add mHealth-based clinical capabilities to the EHR.

The partnership is the latest in a string of recent projects focused on enhancing the EHR platform with mHealth tools. They range from the likes of eClinicalWorks and Cerner moving to add connectivity with mobile devices to Epic's decision to launch its own app store.

The deal with Vocera starts simple. Vocera is integrating its two-way communications functions to Epic's EHR to enable housekeeping staff in a healthcare system to provide real-time updates on bed cleaning status and availability. Using a Vocera device, a staff member can dictate voice messages into the Epic EHR, updating management and improving the patient experience and workflow efficiency.

Company officials say this is just the first of many planned integrations between Vocera and Epic; future projects will involve clinical uses.

“Real-time communication and collaboration requires robust, two-way integrations between EHRs, clinical systems and our communication platform,” Brent Lang, Vocera's CEO, said in a press release. “Our unique capabilities and ongoing roadmap of integrations between the EHRs and Vocera solutions accelerates our customers’ ability to deliver better care.”

Vocera recently announced that it's integrating secure text messaging to its platform, which is used by more than 800 hospitals. The San Jose, Calif.-based company, which will be displaying at the HIMSS15 Conference and Exhibition this month in Chicago, pointed to a recent Spyglass survey that indicates 90 percent of physicians have used SMS to communicate with colleagues, risking the dangers of a non-HIPAA-compliant platform and the wrath of supervisors in favor of quick communications to improve clinical care.

“With the rise of population health, the importance of care coordination is greater than ever.  The best way to improve how care teams communicate and collaborate is to provide solutions that are easy to use, secure, and integrated with other clinical systems,” Lang said in announcing that feature last month.

Three years ago, Epic integrated Nuance Communications' speech recognition technology into its EHR platform, enabling users to capture clinical information through Epic Haiku for the iPhone and Epic Canto for the iPad.