Are EHR apps the next step in digitizing healthcare?

Technology is constantly evolving, and new ideas and applications are quickly being developed in attempts to get ahead of the innovation curve.

Much of the discussion in health IT currently revolves around interoperability and how to make health data accessible and usable for all providers. Several IT vendors and health technology companies have introduced hardware, software and even multi-organizational alliances in attempts to foster information sharing.

While vendors and companies like Epic, Apple and athenahealth have indicated commitment to interoperability by opening their programming interfaces to outside developers — via Epic's announced app store exchange, Apple's Research Kit and athenahealth's participation in the CommonWell Alliance — the introduction of apps into EHRs could become a tool to facilitate the opening of platforms as EHRs increasingly become cloud-based and mobile, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

EHR apps are still a new occurrence on the health IT horizon, according to the report, but investors are starting to pick up on the potential trend. For example, Psilos Group, a healthcare investor, has invested $30 million in PatientSafe Solutions, a mobile care-coordination app, according to the report.

In an interview with WSJ, Joe Condurso, CEO of PatientSafe, said there are two types of apps that need to be developed for today's EHRs: architecture-type apps that foster the move toward cloud computing and mobile devices, and clinical apps to be used by front-line caregivers.

Steve Krupa, managing member of Psilos, said in the interview that EHR-based apps can make the difference in "life-and-death situation[s]" by providing the information clinicians need at the point of care as well as continuity of data through the care system.

"I don't think anyone out there would argue against the fact that automation has improved quality and reduced cost for every industry in the world. Healthcare is not automated," Mr. Krupa said. "This is the beginning of that."

More articles on EHRs:

Senators form working group to address EHR usability
Should patients pay for access to their medical data?
How physicians feel about the connected health environment: 5 findings

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