Telus puts together software and devices for wireless health care

Telus Corp. is hoping to prove the value of its network to health-care professionals by connecting them with a drug information resource through mobile devices.

The company on Tuesday announced the “Wireless Physician” package, which combines the use of a Palm Treo 650 or 700wx and the Motorola Q, along with Epocrates Essentials, an online guide to drugs, diseases and diagnostics. The application would be run over Telus’s evolution, data optimized (EVDO) network, which was launched earlier this year.

Barry Rivelis, vice-president of Telus Business Solutions, described Wireless Physician as an aggregation of products and services that will help bring the right information at the right time to care providers in a variety of settings. Telus is initially going after the estimated 21,000 installed users of Epocrates Essentials, but will also be looking for new members of the health-care workforce who become accustomed to using the application while still in medical school.

“One of the key challenges has been the updating capability – they had to take their device, come back to PC and dock it,” he said. “Clinicians and physicians are mobile — they go to hospitals, doctor’s offices, they’re constantly moving. So this kind of application lends itself to that wireless capability.”

Dr. Alan Brookstone, a community-based physician who is also affiliated with Richmond Hospital and Vancouver Coastal Health, is among the early adopters of the Telus package. He described it as an early example of how the physician’s toolset is being enriched by wireless technology.

“(Epocrates) is a very quick and easy reference tool. Even though we might use an electronic medical record, we will also use the PDA to look for specific interactions between drugs. We don’t want to have to log into the (hospital) system,” he said. “If you’re doing house calls or you’re on call in the evenings, it’s great for looking at potential interactions or side-effects.”

Rivelis cited a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where 60 per cent of Epocrates users surveyed said they avoided three ore more medical errors or adverse events a month. Telus became more interested in the application last year, when Epocrates added Canadian reference names and drug terms.

Brookstone said the additions make a big difference. “There are drugs approved in the U.S. but not here, but frequently the difference is the proprietary naming of the drugs,” he said. He gave the example of Diavan, an anti-hypertension drug that goes under a different name in the U.S.

Telus is exploring partnerships with various health-care organizations to see what other applications they could bring to the point of care, Rivelis said. It is also closely monitoring how various electronic health record projects taking place across the country might integrate with the Wireless Physician package.

“We wouldn’t have felt comfortable launching this without an EVDO network, but it’s a perfect example of what’s available to Canadians,” he said.

Brookstone, who is using the Treo 650, said he aware not every physician will be as quick to embrace the technology as he did, but he said the barriers can be overcome if they can improve the point of care, and if companies like Telus can get physician’s attention.

“We live in this time famine. There’s a shortage of time for everything,” he said. “Any tool that makes more work for that individual will have difficulty to get into the practice.”

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