Medical records go mobile

Australian company Core Medical Solutions has started trialling a wireless implementation of its patient records system – The Boss.

The company’s co-founder and managing director Dr Rohan Ward said the idea was born out of necessity.

“Core Medical Solutions was founded in 1999 when there was no software available for practicing medicine,” Dr Ward said. “After four years of development we now have The Boss running in four hospitals. The software is being used on desktops, but we are now extending that to PDAs.”

The Boss is a VB client application that uses a Microsoft SQL database backend, which is separate from any existing databases and communications via Health Level 7 messaging. To enable mobile access, Core Medical Solutions uses Hewlett-Packard iPaq PDAs running a Citrix Terminal Server client over an 802.11b wireless network.

Although the company has partnered with Hewlett-Packard for cheap supply of the iPaqs, other PDAs are also supported, Ward said.

“The biggest benefit of The Boss is its time management capabilities,” Ward said. “Having access to patient records in the wards helps reduce duplication of efforts which saves the hospitals money.”

According to Ward, the biggest complaint is that the software is sitting on a PC.

“Now that we are prototyping the wireless implementation of The Boss, we need to consider issues of acceptance by the doctors, an appropriate form factor for the mobile device, and coverage of the WiFi network,” he said. “We know Tablet PCs will work but compared with

PDAs they are expensive, heavy, and have a low battery life.”

Regarding the security and confidentiality of patient information, Ward is adamant that the only way to properly achieve this is to “computerise” it.

“By having patient information kept on paper in the hospital ward it is not secure,” he said. “With Citrix we are able to encrypt all data transfers and no patient information is stored on the mobile device. So even if the PDA is lost or stolen the information is secure.”

Ward said the database is also fully encrypted.

When asked if state and federal governments will mandate electronic patient information systems, Ward said this is likely but won’t happen soon. “In health, IT doesn’t get the funding it deserves and we have real problems convincing hospitals to increase their IT spend,” he said. “This lack of investment makes us five to 10 years behind other industrialised nations. Any mandate will be driven by government decisions on purchasing of computer systems.”

Ward said when a preferred system is agreed upon, governments are likely to say “here’s the electronic record system, use it”.

The Boss cost structure varies from $300,000 to $500,000 for an unlimited user licence, according to ward.

“We have a competitive ROI model and base pricing on the money to be saved by the hospital,” he said. “Hospitals in the US are pumping through anything from $US1.7 to $US14 million for similar systems.”

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