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Smartphone technology changing way professionals work

Aug 09,2010
Have a sore stomach? Just pick up your smartphone and a doctor will respond, pronto.

Kang Min-gu did precisely that when he was suffering from lower abdominal pain; he received an instant reply from his doctor’s twitter, who advised him to head immediately to the hospital because he may be suffering from appendicitis.

An ex-wife is, say, trying to get access to your savings account? Don’t worry: Your lawyer is a click or touch away to deal with the crisis.

Smartphones are changing the way that professionals work - they now can quickly respond to patients or clients who are switching from cell phones to smartphones - Apple, Anycall, Sky, LG, Nokia, Motorola and others.

Large companies and institutions are beginning to incorporate this new technology into how they do business, particularly in medicine and law.

In the field of medicine, potentially life-saving tweets will likely play a larger role in treating patients, as the popularity of Twitter - a social networking Web site - grows. Doctors, usually based in hospitals and offices, are now getting involved in the wired cyber world.

The crowded main screen of Dr. Lee Jae-ho’s iPhone displays over 80 applications - or “apps” for short. Many are medical apps, three of which he created himself: two allow him to pull information on cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation drugs (CPCR) and toxicology, and another, My Medication, informs both doctors and laypeople about commonly used drugs. He uses My Medication, for example, to give patients information about the drugs he prescribes and to look up medical information when he’s not at the hospital.

The Asan Medical Center has provided smartphones to more than 400 of its doctors since last December in an effort to connect smartphone technology with medicine.

While smartphones are mainly used as a memory aid for doctors and have yet to be used very much to directly treat patients, Korean doctors are beginning to realize their vast potential for improving patient care.

“The memory aids for doctors are ultimately for the patients,” said Lee, deputy director of the Medical Information Office at Asan, who is in charge of developing smartphone applications. “The more precise and accurate the medical knowledge we have, the better we can communicate that knowledge.”

The most commonly used medical apps among Asan doctors are MedCalc, a medical calculator that provides easy access to complicated medical formulas; Epic Haiku, which authorizes access to hospital patient lists, health summaries and test results; and Cloud PHR, which tracks people’s personal health records. Lee wants to develop new apps that could assist in the education of elderly patients.

Companies have taken notice of smartphones’ essential role in the budding health technology market in Korea as well. KT and GE Healthcare have been collaborating to launch a mobile picture archiving and communication system (PACS) at Konkuk University Hospital that will enable doctors and patients to look at high-quality CT scans and ultrasound videos on the iPhone and other smartphones.

The PACS application, which yielded successful results with another patient suffering from acute appendicitis at Johns Hopkins Hospital, will directly help treat patients. Once test operations at Konkuk go smoothly, Chonnam National University Hospital, Severance Hospital and other university hospitals are also considering installing PACS.

Last month, Asan, Severance Hospital and Korea University Annam Hospital all launched Twitter accounts that will provide medical news and updates of events at the hospital, such as blood drives.

Smartphones are also changing the way lawyers work. Attorneys have been waiting for a high-speed Internet connection that will allow them access to in-firm e-mails and documents through a secure portal.

Smartphones provide just that, allowing lawyers to check e-mails when out at meetings or when they’re abroad. What is key is being able to open, attach and download files through e-mails. Many large law firms that have been experimenting with the newest telecommunication devices - from PDA to Blackjack to Blackberry and iPhone - now subsidize smartphones for their attorneys.

Shin & Kim, for instance, provides Blackberry and Samsung Omnia II for more than 300 of its attorneys. Kim & Chang, as well as Kim, Bae & Lee, also offers smartphones to its attorneys.

Hwa Soo Chung, an attorney at Kim & Chang, said this mobile access to in-firm e-mails and files allows attorneys to respond more quickly to clients and to take care of urgent work during off-hours in a timely way.

“Being able to address clients’ needs quickly is a very important part of what we do. I think smartphones could end up redefining ‘responsiveness,’ similar to the way fax and e-mails did,” said Chung.

The big leap has freed attorneys from their desks. “We used to have a ball and chain around our ankles ... but that’s no longer the case. It really allows me to be responsive to my clients without sacrificing my private life,” said Benjamin Hughes, an attorney at Shin & Kim.

“Before [the smartphone], every morning I’d go to the office and wonder, ‘what’s waiting for me in my in-box today?’ It was like a Pandora’s Box, since many of our clients are in different time zones and there could be important updates overnight,” Hughes said. “But now, there are no surprises. I can be on the same page as my clients.”

The Korea Ministry of Government just launched an app in July - “The Korea Law Service Center,” which contains information on various legislation and court cases. It sends updates when important legislative changes are made.

We can expect smartphones to affect many more fields beyond medicine and law, according to Deputy Head Lee Su-guang of Choongang IT, Art & Design Teaching Institute.


By Karen Kim Contributing writer [enational@joongang.co.kr]



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