Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad For Medicine Is About The Software

In kind of browsing around today, it seems that almost every industry - including education, aviation, business, and medicine - is excited about the latest Apple piece of hardware called the iPad. It's so entertaining reading the apple haters and those in the tech industry complain about the iPad - sheesh!

Anyway, focusing back on the medicine and health care industry, there have been a number of posts that I have read talking about the potential of the Apple iPad device. On KevinMD, Steve Woodruff has a good piece touting the awesome hardware potential of the device and the ideal end point of its use in the medical setting.

A heavily referenced article is from Venture Beat called "Apple tablet reps spotted at LA hospital" which talks about how Apple reps were there "three or four times" in the weeks leading up to the iPad launch. Rumors included that hospital execs and even some docs got to see previews of this piece of hardware.

In an article from TinyComb, they make reference to Motion Computing and their mobile model called the "C5." The C5 is 3-pounds (iPad is 1.5 pounds) and has a price tag of $2199 (iPad base price is $499). We use the C5 device in our hospital. So, I'm familiar with it's pluses and minuses for uses in the clinical setting.

In my view, all of this early analysis misses the point. As a hardware device, I would love to use this in my job right now in the hospital and in the office. I would love to let go of my netbook at the office and use the iPad. I would love to make my hospital rounds with the touch screen and get everything done using this cool form factor.

But, it's not about the hardware people. It's all about the software. Will the corporate EMR hospital and office vendors write updates and patches for iPad? I really doubt that (at this point). I mean they are busy as it is with their own interoperability issues as well as big picture issues like keeping up with CCHIT certification and the mysterious term called "Meaningful Use" which helps hospitals and doctors obtain federal stimulus monies for "meaningful use" of EMRs.

I can just see EMR vendors saying now, "Oh yeah, we can write software to use iPad on the hospital system. It will be an additional (several) hundred thousand dollar price tag for that feature. And, we agree. It'll be cool to see iPads using our system..."

Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited about iPad as the people in the articles above. But, don't expect iPad's impact for medicine to be anytime soon, or to come at a cheap price for hospitals or doctor's offices.....

Update: Greeting to those of you who clicked over from The Blog that Ate Manhattan, Health Highlights, Grand Rounds v6.19, MobiHealthNews, or Wall Street Journal link. I invite you to check out other posts over here. Thanks for stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Point! I look forward to the device being the standard. There aren't many good apps for the iPhone at present, but that's more a function of size than capability. And there's always the communication (wifi/USB/BT) problems. The thing is, these are all surmountable, and the abilities of this device far outweigh the detriments, as far as medicine is concerned.

Jared Houck said...

Doc, you've got it exactly right!

There is a large gap between what many HOPE the iPad will do and what it actually CAN do. Tablet PCs have been on the market for many years and promised many of the same things. The limiting factor has been (and most likely will continue to be) software. In the US, CCHIT/Drummond certification (via the ARRA stimulus) will be the badge that differentiates what healthcare facilities will actually support and purchase.

I've listed another 10 reasons the current iPad will not be significantly deployed in healthcare if you have the time.

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