What Desktop Applications Can Learn from Mobile Apps

January 12, 2012  |  Category: Clinical ApplicationsHealth IT

mHealth is hot, so there’s lots of discussion these days about mobile apps for physicians and what it will take to spur adoption. An article this week on the mHIMSS website suggests one likely driver is “technologies that will decrease [physicians’] work burden.” The author, Dr. David Lee Scher, notes (quite correctly) that “the last thing physicians want is technology that will increase their workload.”

That same thinking should inform all software design for physicians, not just mobile apps.  At PatientKeeper, we have always believed that creating applications that map directly to physicians’ familiar workflow is the best starting point for technology that physicians will happily use, whether it’s on a desktop or laptop computer, smartphone or tablet. A big problem with many traditional hospital information systems – most of which were designed originally for hospital operations staff, not clinicians – is that they force physicians to log in multiple times to different systems or applications, and often require physicians to jump back and forth between applications to accomplish a basic workflow, such as entering and documenting an order. In the real world, a patient encounter typically does not unfold in a predictable, “linear” order – take history, review labs, review meds, order, document, charge. When you introduce a patient into the process, the encounter jumps from one workflow to another and back again. It’s unnatural for physicians to do one application/workflow at a time, so it’s unhelpful to physicians when a system imposes such rigidity.

No doubt mHealth is an exciting trend in the medical community, and one that holds great promise for improving both physician efficiency and patient care. Hopefully some of the thoughtful approaches taken to developing mobile apps for physicians will percolate down to the desktop, as well, because no clinical system (regardless of the delivery platform) should increase a physician’s work burden. Doctors have more than enough to do already.