iPad used to in care of victims poisoned by BP oil spill

The director of the Louisiana Poison Centre is using an iPad to help manage patients poisoned by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, uses the $30 LogMeIn Ignition application on the iPad to log in remotely to his office PC, so he can use the center’s data collection application to coordinate planning with the U.S. Health Department.

The Poison Center forwards every report of oil-related poisoning to the Health Department, to help coordinate reacting to geographic clusters, and get early warning of emerging trends. For example, the Health Department watches for increasing numbers of dermal or respiratory problems related to the oil spill.

With his iPad at his side, Ryan is able to log in to his desktop computer and forward the report of each individual case to the Health Department within 15 minutes of its coming in, around the clock and seven days a week, he said.

LogMeIn is a remote-access service that allows users to log into desktop computers.

Using LogMeIn, the remote device displays what’s on the screen of the desktop computer. LogMeIn users can access another machine through a Web browser. Or they can access PCs from iPhones, Android phones, or iPads, using software installed on the mobile device.

Increased workload

The iPad software displays the screen of the desktop computer on the tablet display. The iPad keyboard enters text on the desktop system, and tapping on the iPad screen generates mouse-pointer movements and clicks.

Ryan started using LogMeIn on the iPhone early this year. He initially just used it to log into his desktop system and copy files where needed.

But the oil spill brought increased workload, and increased Ryan’s reliance on LogMeIn. The centre, which gets about 75,000 reports each year, has already got 500 related to the oil spill, an extremely high number for a single incident.

“When the oil spill hit, we were really concerned about being able to move cases to the Health Department quickly,” he said.

Ryan added, “We normally don’t send all our calls to the Health Department, unless we get a case where we feel there is a particular interest or need, like an outbreak of food-borne illness coming from a particular area.”

In that case, the Health Department might send out inspectors to find the source of the illness.

The Poison Control Center configured its data collection software, Toxicall, to send an alert to Ryan every time a spill-related case comes in, and he then forwards the case to the Health Department. The Ignition connection satisfies Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements to protect patient confidentiality, allowing Ryan to access cases over a secure channel.

Used iPhone first

At first, Ryan used the iPhone to log into his desktop computer and forward the case from Toxicall to the Health Department.

“I was just about to go blind, having to expand the view just to navigate,” Ryan said about using Ignition on the iPhone. “With the large number of cases coming in, it was clear that while it was a solution, there as a better solution out there.” So he got a 3G iPad in June.

Also, Ryan uses Ignition to update an LCD in the Poison Control call centre, which provides professional news and updates to call-center operators. “If I’m out and I hear about product recalls, or an outbreak of food-borne illness, I can post it,” he said. He logs into the PC in the call center, updates a PowerPoint presentation and sends the updated presentation to the LCD display.

In addition to Ignition, Ryan has several medical databases on the iPad.

Ryan said he also uses the iPad for personal productivity, including stocks, navigation, news, travel planning, and watching the weather. Also, Ryan is a private pilot, and uses iPad flight and weather applications for planning those trips.

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