New iHealth reports series focuses on emerging Internet applications in health care

Oakland 29 October 2001Mobile computing is increasingly useful for caregivers to access needed clinical data and applications anywhere and anytime. How soon and to what extent such use may be integrated into standard health care practice is reviewed in Wireless and Mobile Computing, a study conducted by the First Consulting Group for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). It is not too early for organisations to investigate the benefits it can offer and how it would fit in with current information systems, work flow, and care practices.

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Initially, mobile computing in medicine allowed clinicians easy access to guidelines, clinical and drug information, as well as limited formulary information. Today's computer applications now handle additional tasks such as basic forms of patient benefit determinations, prescription writing, clinical documentation, lab test management, and urgent communications.

Mobile computing is not a single technology, but a combination of three components: handheld computing device, connecting technology, and a centralised information system, each with different performance considerations, costs, and risks. Successful implementation of mobile computing requires employing all of these components in the way that best suits the work and environment of the end users.

The report serves as a guide to health care professionals and managers who want to understand mobile computing and wireless technology concepts, the current opportunities in health care, and decisions about adopting it. It provides a clear discussion of connectivity, performance, security, integration, and cost issues.

This is the first report to be released in a five-part series that CHCF has commissioned to address the potential impact of applications, which use the Internet and other communications technologies to improve care delivery. The other reports in the five-part series to be released over the next six weeks will help define and explain each of several emerging concepts and applications being developed or used in conjunction with them:

  • eEncounters: new electronic methods for communication between patients and their providers which resemble care delivered today via the telephone or face-to-face encounters
  • ePrescriptions: use of an automated data entry system to generate prescriptions, replacing the hand-written, paper versions
  • eDisease Management: new electronic tools which support a more co-ordinated and pro-active approach to managing chronic illness by providing patients with improved communication, access to information and self-management tools

"Internet technology is still fairly new and untested in health care", stated Sam Karp, CHCF's Chief Information Officer. "That makes experimentation, analysis and evaluation critically important. CHCF regularly conducts research and commissions surveys on emerging technology trends, related developments in health policy, and regulatory issues that arise from the speed and magnitude of technological change."

The reports have been researched and written for the foundation by the First Consulting Group, a provider of information-based consulting, integration, and management services to health care, pharmaceutical and other life sciences organisations in North America and Europe.

In addition, CHCF will release a report on the Diffusion of Internet Technologies in Health Care, prepared by the Institute for the Future, a non-profit research firm specialising in long-term forecasting, alternative futures scenarios, and the impacts of new products and next-generation technologies on society and business.

Through its iHealthReports series, the foundation has previously addressed issues ranging from privacy of personal health information on- and off-line and the quality of health information on the Internet, to the use of Application Service Providers (ASPs) in health care.

Geared toward non-technical readers, the Wireless and Mobile Computing report provides a snapshot of the current market place with a view toward future developments. More technical information on capabilities, issues, connectivity, and coming developments are included in the appendices and referenced in the text for those interested in more detail. A vendor list and a basic glossary are also included. The report is available at the Web site of the California HealthCare Foundation.


Leslie Versweyveld

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