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The Mac Doctor Is In: Slick Tools for Health Pros

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 27, 2008 4:00 AM PT

A doctor at a California hospital, David Sperling, knows the value of having the latest information about adverse drug reactions in a mobile application. "As a physician, your pocket space gets smaller and smaller with your pager and cell phone and all the other detritus of the profession," he told MacNewsWorld. "You don't want to add a thick pocket manual as well."

The Mac Doctor Is In: Slick Tools for Health Pros

Back in the 1990s, Sperling began using Epocrates' integrated drug, disease and diagnostic suite on his Palm handheld and never looked back. Until, that is, Apple introduced the iPhone.

The twain happily met for Sperling -- an avid gadget fan who couldn't resist the device -- when Apple rolled out its iPhone software development kit earlier this year: Epocrates was among the first wave of vendors to participate.

"It was one of the first applications I downloaded," he said. As an added bonus, the iPhone's graphic support means the application was able to incorporate high-res photos of the pills.

Mac Fans

Sperling is not the only member of his profession enamored with Apple's product line. Doctors are big Mac fans, according to Mark Benvegnu, vice president and chief strategy officer of Spring Medical Systems, which provides electronic health record applications for the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. "We are finding that as more doctors graduate, now they are expecting to use an EHR. Also, a lot of them used Macs in medical school."

In fact, doctors make great customers, as they have a passion for technology and understand how it can help their practice, Benvegnu continued. "They tend to be more computer-savvy than other professionals," he said.

These trends are resulting in a greater market share for Mac-supported software than Benvegnu ever imagined even a few years ago. Thirty percent of Spring Medical's customers use a Mac for at least some of their office tasks, he estimated.

Mobile Health Records

Spring Medical Systems is an outlier in the larger universe of medical software. Electronic health recordkeeping is a nascent -- yet high-growth -- technology. However, there are established software categories that also illustrate Apple's appeal in the medical community.

Many medical billing and practice management software applications -- such as KIP Deluxe, to name one example -- support both Mac and Windows platforms.

Others are designed specifically and solely for the Mac: Examples include MacPractice and ComChart.

This type of functionality is also available as a hosted Web app -- AllegianceMD is one example -- which makes the computer operating system irrelevant.

The mobile space is probably the most active growth category for Apple-based medical applications. Spring Medical Systems, for instance, just presented a demonstration to Apple of its beta electronic prescribing product for Macs, called "SpringScripts." It will be available shortly, Benvegnu said.

The iPhone Factor

"We've seen some really innovative mobile health applications for consumers come out [for the iPhone] -- especially around exercise and weight management, and pharmaceutical information," Erika S. Fishman, director of research at Manhattan Research, told MacNewsWorld.

Some, such as Skyscape Medical Resources, provide drug and clinical information, she said. Other tools targeting consumers as well include a blood sugar monitor or a stopwatch designed to track a woman's labor contractions.

"Over 10 million U.S. adults currently use their cell phones, PDAs or smartphones to look up health and medical information," Fishman said. "This space is poised for an exciting future."

Right now, though, the vendors that dominate mobile health care are targeting physicians. Following are some of the applications currently available:

From DoctorCalc, Medical Calculator helps doctors and nurses compute useful formulas and equations; Patient Tracker tracks information about patients, including history and physical and daily notes; ACLS accesses advanced cardiac life support algorithms; and RSI provides access to the rapid sequence intubation procedure.

Epocrates offers integrated drug, disease, and diagnostic information for mobile devices.

iDocTools provides access to more than 100 clinical formulas and scores, as well as opiate and steroid equivalence used in daily clinical work.

Mediquations for the iPhone offers more than 114 medical calculations and scoring tools.

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Which of these tech companies has the greatest *positive* impact on society?