Writing A Better Rx

MedEfficient developed software that gives doctors the capability to write electronic prescriptions that can then be faxed, printed or e-mailed to patients or directly to pharmacies. It also identifies drugs that may react badly with others being taken by patients and whether drugs are covered by a patient's insurance plan.

Some Riverside physicians wanted to use the product, but figuring out a way to allow them to write prescriptions on the fly as they visited patients presented a hardware challenge.

"We wanted them to be able to take a device into the exam room with them and then put out the prescription right on the spot. We started with them using little PDAs, and we found it was too cumbersome. There wasn't enough real estate for them to see what they were doing and to be able to scroll through things," said Craig Hunter, IT director for the Riverside Medical Clinic.

"We tried some notebook computers, and that provided more real estate but they were too bulky and heavy, and it's too expensive to buy notebooks for all of the physicians that wanted to use the product," he said.

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The answer was a wireless display from ViewSonic, the ViewSonic V210.

"It was perfect because it was the perfect cross between the two. It's only two and half pounds, so it's really lightweight. It's not very bulky. It's about the same size as the patients' charts and the physicians are used to carrying around a chart. It also provided enough viewable area so that they could use the product easily without getting frustrated," Hunter said.

In addition to the software and 60 ViewSonic V210 displays, Riverside Medical also purchased docking stations, keyboards and extra batteries from MedEfficient for around $90,000, or around $1,400 per unit.

MedEfficient, San Clemente, Calif., has sold about 160 of the ViewSonic V210s, and managing partner George Pontiakos thinks it's a good fit for his company's software offering.

"The bulk of our product is on the ViewSonic. The screen is very legible. It's very light. It's easy to manage. Part of the challenge with the doctors is that a lot of them are not technically proficient. The doctor's office is the last bastion of paper documentation," Pontiakos said.

While he'd like to see improved battery life, the unit can now run for six to seven hours unplugged, he said.

MedEfficient got the wireless displays from Coastline Micro, a VAR based in Irvine, Calif.

Ken Lullo, product manager for the ViewSonic display at Coastline Micro, said the product is being sold through the channel and that VARs and solution providers will benefit.

"A reseller has the capability of making some pretty good money on it. It is a niche device. You can't just go and Google this product and find all kinds of prices for it out there," Lullo said. ViewSonic uses the channel, he said, to prevent end users from purchasing it as a tablet PC. The unit is simply a display and must be hosted.

"The reason it's catching on so well in the health-care environment is that it's HIPAA-compliant. It's billed as a wireless display and it actually functions as a thin-client device, in that there's nothing stored on the device," he said. "If somebody were to steal one of these devices, they're not walking out the door with a bunch of patient records. The device does nothing in and of itself; it gives you the ability to view the patient records and to do so in a safe and secure manner."

Back at Riverside Medical, Hunter said that the product is helping doctors improve patient care.

"I think what we're seeing, as far as improving patient care, is the speed with which patients can now get their prescriptions. What the product allows [doctors] to do now is send it right to the patient's pharmacy, and if they want [a copy] we can print it out," Hunter said.

"What we're finding is that as some of the older doctors that don't care for the technology are seeing the newer doctors or the ones that do like technology use it, and they're going, 'That's pretty cool. I'd like to try it.'

So we do have more people jumping on the bandwagon," he said.