The conflicting iPad intelligence we’re gathering makes it difficult to predict what’s going to happen out there in the health care market when it comes to tablets. If that market can be thought of as a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, we’ve put together a few quality edge pieces:
- Samsung and Dell are rumored to be readying tablets for the market, we’ve been hearing all year — and all will run Google’s Android operating system, whose new 2.2 version resolves a lot of peccadilloes users and developers complained about in previous editions. Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences is moving aggressively into the health care space, building alliances with the American Medical Association and electronic health record vendors (our guess is they want a slice of the ambulatory practice EHR market).
- Hewlett-Packard’s Slate Windows tablets, demo’d earlier this year at trade shows, are not dead (as previously rumored).
- iOS, which is the iPad and iPhone operating system, is getting crushed by Android out there in the smartphone market. In fact, Android has even swamped Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, thanks to an 886% growth in sales from last year’s second quarter to this year.
- Yet the iPad, anecdotally, is wildly popular among physicians and health care academics, we hear in interview after interview with health IT leaders. Several EHR vendors either have released or are about to release iPad-optimized apps for running EHRs, and six hospital IT leaders with whom we’ve discussed massive wireless network expansions at their facilities cite iPad EHR use as one of the major drivers for their respective projects. Few health care IT leaders acknowledge the existence of Android, let alone give it much weight in their plans.
- Some hardcore health IT leaders — who often are in a different gang from the physician technologists and chief medical informatics M.D. types — aren’t sold on Apple products and would really love to see Dell or Microsoft offer an iPad alternative that plugs and plays with their present gear, especially if the security was HIPAA-compliant out of the box.
- And this just in: Stanford School of Medicine is putting an iPad in the welcome package for all its incoming students. That will help them research and study on the go, but it also will give them a leg up on grads from other schools: When Stanford medical students graduate in 2014, potential employers will decide their iPad skills give them a competitive advantage over applicants who haven’t been using an iPad consistently for the last four years.
The one thing we know by reading these tea leaves? It’s going to be fun to watch the health care tablet market play out over the next 24 months. Will the physicians — who are on the cutting edge on this one, integrating iPhones and iPads into their practices as fast as they can — win out? Or will old-guard IT leaders who hold sway with administrators when it comes to capital investments in hardware advocate for Android or even Windows tablets? Or will yet another piece of hardware emerge and blow smartphones and tablets out of the water? Buckle in and enjoy the roller coaster ride of market indicators along with us.