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Latest iPhone app: Baby EKG

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Mobile medicine has arrived. Decatur County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg became the first hospital in Indiana to start using AirStrip OB, a patient-monitoring system that sends things like the heartbeat waves of patients directly to physicians’ iPhones, BlackBerrys or other mobile devices.

Decatur County will use the technology for pregnant women in labor. By sending the heartbeats of the baby and the contraction patterns of the mom to the OB/GYN on call, the physician can see when he or she needs to get to the delivery room.

Additional patient data is also accessible, including nursing notes, vital signs and physician order results.

“No matter the demands of the day or location, a physician can closely watch their patients in labor and be in a position to react immediately to a change in situation.  That fact can only contribute to improved patient care,” Decatur County’s CEO Bill Alloy said in a statement.

Mobile devices are increasingly used by health care workers, and not just in tiny hospitals like Decatur County. Indianapolis-based Clarian Health hopes to use mobile devices to help physicians communicate better with one another, which is key to Clarian’s efforts to “clinically integrate” hundreds of physicians spread across scores of facilities.

Such coordination of care, in theory, could help physicians catch developing problems earlier and avoid redundant tests, thereby saving money. The new U.S. health-reform law tries to encourage such coordination as one method of slowing the growth of health care costs.

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