This deviates a little away from the core medical topics we usually talk about, but it’s going to be a huge part of practice in the future. The internet in general permeates everything we do these days, and as email has become a bigger part of our lives, we’ve become more accustomed to storing our data ‘in the cloud’. What does it mean for you?
Instead of emailing yourself data, you can keep it with you wherever you go – because it’s accessible wherever you are. Most cloud solutions offer some form of mobile app as well (on iOS and Android at least), meaning you have information with you on the round as well as at home. For those studying at the moment, having your notes with you any time can be quite handy.
It means that instead of having seven different documents summarising a certain topic, you can edit one file and continue to improve it, rather than having to add to things when you get back to your desk.
So, what are your options? The two biggest services by far are Google Docs and Dropbox. Note that with either of these, there is a bit of a question mark regarding storing patient information, and neither should have any identifying information stored until that question is clearly answered – which means they need to comply with something called the HIPAA.
Google Docs has the advantage of being linked with Gmail (if you already have it) and you can actually create docs native to the format that you can edit online without having to download anything. Furthermore, it’s pretty easy to collaborate with other people and edit on the fly during a conversation.
Dropbox is great since it’s simple. One folder that sits on your desktop, always synced with the cloud. Simply drag the files you want in there, and you’re done. No logging in and uploading as you have with Google.
Having your reference notes with you on the fly is great, and if either of these become HIPAA compliant, then having patient notes around will be great. Both of these are going to come hand in hand with the tablet revolution, where you basically carry a screen around with you that acts as your window into the cloud. For those of you in study groups, having documents in the cloud is a great way to stay on the same page and share notes.
One day, if these services do become fully HIPAA compliant and secure, then your patient list is in your hand – and we can imagine a time where patient’s conditions cay be hyperlinked to the latest information and evidence. With an app smart enough, it may be able to interpret conditions and treatment and make new suggestions. The world is all about having information now, not later, and the cloud is no longer the future – it’s now.
Check out Google Docs here. With Dropbox, the more people you invite the more space each of you get – so if you click the following link, you’ll get an extra 250MB of space online – here. There’s a whole heap more out there – offerings from box.net, Microsoft, and more.