When Epocrates ran an independent survey of physicians and asked how many of them planned to upgrade their wireless devices in the next six months, 30% answered that they would be buying the new iPhone 3G. In part, this is due to the iPhone's popularity and cultural status. But another major factor is the fact that third-party applications can be developed for and installed on the new iPhone 2.0 operating system, and the iPhone's large, bright, intuitive touch screen lends itself perfectly to the development of medical applications.
The medical applications described below are the first to be announced, and many more are being developed for the new iPhone 3G and older devices upgraded to the iPhone 2.0 OS. Collectively, they will help physicians and related professionals become more effective healthcare providers.
Epocrates released a native iPhone version of their popular drug reference program for handheld computers. It is a free product with versions available for Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and BlackBerry devices. Epocrates also offers an online version that current iPhone users can access at m.epocrates.com. This latest version has a huge new feature called the "Pill Identifier," which is only available in the iPhone version of the program. With it, you can check off features of a pill—such as color, shape, and other features—and identify the medication. According to Epocrates, the iPhone's screen is best suited for this feature, and it is not likely to be incorporated into the Windows Mobile, Palm, and BlackBerry versions of the program. Epocrates Rx includes information on over 3,300 drug monographs with Rx dosing, interactions, adverse reactions, safety/monitoring (e.g. info on safety in pregnant women, black box warnings, etc.), as well as formulary pricing.
Epocrates Rx for the iPhone is a popular drug reference
program that lets you search for drugs, alternative
drugs, and drug interactions. Its Pill Pictures feature
lets you identify medications by the size, shape,
and color of the pill.
The "multi-check" feature allows you to check for drug interactions among up to 30 drugs at once. Insurance formulary information for over 140 health plans, including for profit plans (e.g. United, Aetna, Cigna), Medicaid plans, and Medicare part D information is also included.
The new native product for iPhone 2.0 devices is a standalone program and does not require a wireless connection to the Internet to access the information. So when you're deep inside the bowels of a hospital and can't get a cell signal, you can still access the fully functional drug reference. A video demo of the latest (and best) version of Epocrates RX is available on the Epocrates Web site (epocrates.com/graphics/video/iphone-sdk.mov).
I have always found AirStrip OB to be among the most innovative medical applications for healthcare. AirStrip Technologies has been working on a new, even better application for the iPhone 3G/iPhone 2.0. (This FDA-cleared software application is already in use on other PDAs and smartphones.) AirStrip OB allows physicians (Obstetricians, OB nurses, and OB anesthesiologists) to remotely access virtual real-time and historical waveform data for both the mother and baby, including contraction and fetal heart waveform patterns, directly from the hospital's labor and delivery unit, utilizing only a cell phone connection. The iPhone version of AirStrip OB will do all these things and more. The iPhone-specific features will…
- Include multi-touch capabilities to quickly scroll and zoom through critical data;
- Take advantage of not only the expanded iPhone screen size, but also Apple's newly announced push notification service to send alerts to physicians based on individual physician customization;
- Allow doctors to add patients to a "My Patients" list that will help physicians navigate through data more efficiently when time delays can mean the difference between life and death or severe damage for a newborn baby.
This new iPhone 3G version truly blew me away. Unfortunately, additional information was not ready for public release when I wrote this article. However, the iPhone 3G/iPhone 2.0 version of AirStrip OB will be well worth the wait—it will "evolutionize" the way obstetricians conduct their practice! To find out more, visit the AirStrip Web site.
Drugs.com recently announced an iPhone-specific Web app to access its extensive online drug database. Because it's a Web app, it can be accessed by the original iPhone or iPod touch, as well as devices running iPhone 2.0. Open Safari on your iPhone or iPod touch and go to drugs.com/iphone. You'll have to register to access the database, but it's free. Once you do, you have access to a product that is very similar to Epocrates.
Drugs.com has a large drug database, with a detailed description and summary of the drug. One feature I love on Drugs.com is the descriptive information about the use of a drug during pregnancy and in breast feeding women. You can also access a drug interaction checker, but missing is a Pill Identifier like the one described above in Epocrates Rx. I would love to see one added in a future version of the product.
Drugs.com is a full-featured,
online drug reference for users
of any iPhone or iPod touch.
Suitable for all physicians and health care professionals, this free, professional version of Drugs.com is designed entirely around the iPhone interface framework. However, it is a Web app and does not have a user-installable component. That means that you must be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular data to use it. It includes predictive search, built-in drug interactions, and warnings for almost all medications prescribed in the U.S.
The best is yet to come!
There has not been a mobile device better suited for point of care healthcare applications than the iPhone. With these upcoming advances, physicians will finally be brought into the 21st century like the rest of the world! As a physician, I'm impressed with this first batch of mobile medical applications for the iPhone. I can't wait to see what's coming next.