Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

Almost three years after the iPad successfully reintroduced the tablet computer, there is an urgency to deliver mobile apps in the enterprise that never existed when companies were simply connecting smartphones. While all types of industries are considering the impact of tablets on their businesses, healthcare is emerging as one of the leading areas where mobile technologies such as smartphones, sensor networks and tablets are being deployed.

The benefits of mobile in healthcare are obvious. Physicians and nurses can avoid mistakes by knowing more about the patient when they’re asked to make a decision. Doctors can use tablets to educate patients on their conditions and treatment.  In many cases the firms start by replacing volume of paper or paper based processes with mobile apps. Let’s look at the example of RehabCare Group, a 28-year-old provider of therapeutic services based in St Louis. RehabCare is using smartphones and iPads to improve the patient care experience.  The company built a custom cloud-based app on top of SalesForece.com to create a paperless patient preadmission and screening process.

Mobile devices support an immediate information transfer. RehabCare also uses the app to capture vital information at the point of care to provide better documentation. Mobile devices are now being used for other tests such as training for physical therapists and to show a patient’s family a map of the facility.  By combining mobile, mobile device management and the cloud computing, Rehabcare has secure access to its data anytime.  It also has its medical information integrated with its CRM system to prevent customer care issues.

Ferdinand Velasco, the Chief Medical Information Officer of Texas Health Resources, also provides another example of how mobile and cloud computing are coming together to improve patient care.  Currently, Texas Health Resources offers read-only access to electronic health records. Velasco told me that once his physicians had a taste of what was possible, they clamored for more. They want to perform tasks such as e-prescribing and schedule management. Velasco also mentioned that there are several useful healthcare apps in Apple’s iTunes store today.

One obvious area of concern is securing information and personal health records on a device that could be lost or stolen. As a result we are seeing the emergence of private clouds that store records and provide a secure tunnel to information that can be accessed from a web browser on a mobile device.

For example, AT&T announced a strategic alliance with Acuo Technologies to deliver cloud-based medical imaging storage solutions to help healthcare institutions solve their increasing data storage challenges.  Baptist Health System and Henry Ford Health System are piloting the AT&T Medical Imaging and Information Management service that connects doctors to patients’ medical images, regardless of which device originally took the image, allowing them to offer faster treatment. The solution helps providers to store, access, view and share patient medical images and information inside hospital systems and outside with referring physicians and other authorized facilities over a highly secure infrastructure.

Project Blue Spruce, developed in the IBM labs, is another example of this. It allows people to simultaneously interact and update content in real-time via a web browser on computers and the Apple iPad and includes video chat. Today, researchers for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are using the IBM code to help analyze health records of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPDGene®)

Texas Health Resources uses a private cloud solution today that lets doctors review electronic health records as well as radiology scans. The benefits of this approach are that data will never be downloaded to the device, the connection to the data is secured and the device doesn’t need massive memory and processing power to view large files like EKGs.  Lopez Research expects to see more healthcare providers embrace these types of solutions as these companies look to balance the desire to digitize records with the need to secure patient data.