Health Care

Via Christi physicians to test time-saving iPhone app

A group of physicians and information technology staff at Via Christi Health have developed an application for the iPhone that they said Thursday will save time for physicians and improve patient safety.

The app, called Mobile EHR, allows physicians to see updated records for patients hospitalized at Via Christi Hospitals on St. Francis, East Harry and St. Teresa.

Officials said it also should decrease the amount of time physicians spend on accessing Via Christi’s medical records dictation system.

“The app and its capabilities are really vast,” said physician Sam Antonios.

The app will be piloted by a group of 20 physicians for the next two months. Based on that pilot, developers of the app will make changes and eventually make it available to physicians throughout Via Christi.

It will allow doctors to see a patient’s vital signs over a period of hours, days and even years, as well as lab test results, EKGs, and reports by radiologists who have examined a patient’s X-ray or CT scan. The app will also allow physicians using it to call in to the hospital’s dictation system by the touch of one button, eliminating what Antonios said was a multistep and time-consuming process.

Antonios and physician Brendan Rice are among a team of physicians and IT personnel who developed the app.

They said they have been wanting this capability based on their knowledge of other off-the-shelf apps that operate similarly, but not exactly like Via Christi’s.

Work on the app really got its push from Abdul Bengali, senior vice president and chief information officer for Via Christi Health.

“He enabled it to be a priority,” Rice said.

Bengali joined Via Christi from Mayo Clinic earlier this year. He said Mayo doctors had a similar application available to them.

The app is password protected and there is a lot of security built around it and the information it can access, Bengali said. For example, “we don’t allow the information to be downloaded” to a phone, he said.

Via Christi also had an external security review of the app before beginning the pilot project.

Rice said the pilot project will include doctors from a variety of specialties and ages.

They think it will be embraced by their peers because “physicians tend to latch on to things that save them time,” Antonios said.

“Our thought was no more than two or three touches away” from getting any piece of patient information from the app, Bengali said. That makes the technology more user friendly, he said.

Officials are also considering developing an app for other smartphone operating systems such as Android. But the focus now is on the pilot and the iPhone, Bengali said.

And Via Christi will be looking at developing other apps, including ones that are specific to patients, he said. Bengali is serious enough about app development that Via Christi is seeking to hire an app developer.

“This is something we need to invest in,” he said.