Epocrates Coming to an iPhone Near You

By Neil Versel

March 11, 2008 | By popular demand, the Epocrates drug-reference database will soon be among the first batch of non-Apple software available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Epocrates, of San Mateo, Calif., participated in the March 6 kickoff event for the public release of the iPhone Software Development Kit, and has already optimized the free version of its online drug reference for the iPhone Web browser — mostly because physicians have been clamoring for it.

“I did not anticipate the amount of physician interest in the iPhone,” Epocrates VP of Marketing Michelle Snyder said at last month’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.

It was only in November that Epocrates issued a BlackBerry version of its software, after years of requests.

Physician interest in Epocrates for the iPhone has been building since last summer, when Stanford University neurosurgeon Steven Chang began circulating a petition on the GeekNUZ blog to demand an iPhone version of Epocrates. Chang delivered copies of a 35-page printout to Apple and Epocrates last September. Typical of the comments on the blog is: “I won’t get an iPhone ’til I can get Epocrates for it. It’s that simple.”

At HIMSS, Epocrates showed the free, advertising-supported Web version of its flagship product, which had been optimized for the iPhone Safari browser, and the company now has an “iPhone Compatibility” link right on its corporate home page.

Now that it has an idea of the demand for an iPhone product, Epocrates is excited. “Developing software for the iPhone is like developing for no other mobile platform,” software engineer Glenn Keighley said at last week’s Apple SDK launch. He called it an “almost desktop-like environment,” due to the greater screen resolution than other personal digital assistants and smartphones.

Indeed, the iPhone version will be the first mobile release of ePocrates software that shows medication images. “We’re also able to use the core animation-backed framework to reinvent and reinnovate some of our existing functionality,” Keighley said.

For example, he said the “Identify Drug” feature, which lets users search for drugs based on color, shape, and other markings when patients don’t remember the name of medications they are on, will include photographs and links to drug monographs on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Epocrates likely will add this process to future releases of PC software, according to Keighley.

The company has not announced a release date for the iPhone software.


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