Use of the Apple Inc. iPad in health care has risen dramatically since the device was released nearly two years ago. The warm embrace that the industry gave the device, by now, surprises few — health care had been waiting for an easy-to-use tablet, IT departments were already familiar with the iOS operating system and physicians fit nicely into the target market for iPad users (meaning, they can afford it).
Case studies abound, whether they refer to iPad EHR systems, speech recognition software or even Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) messaging. A recent research report, though, casts some doubt on whether the iPad in health care has hit its peak.
Bay Area-based Spyglass Consulting Group contends that, while 80% of physicians see a “promising” future for the iPad in health care, “significant software innovation” and a culture shift among health care IT departments will be necessary for the device to have a transformative effect on care delivery.
At the moment, the consultancy found, physicians are only using mobile devices to access applications outside the work environment. (Insert clichéd “doctor views patient records at child’s soccer game” anecdote here.) At the hospital or the office, 83% of physicians primarily use a desktop PC to access clinical or business applications.
Why? One reason is the pervasive belief that enterprise iPad use begets a massive IT management migraine, thanks to concerns about security, maintenance and network infrastructure. As a result, IT departments are reluctant to support the iPad in health care organizations. This is a missed opportunity — according to Spyglass, 98% of physicians interviewed for the study have embraced mobile technology.
The other fundamental stumbling block for the iPad in health care is a lack of innovation, particularly among large EHR vendors struggling to adapt EHR functionality to the small iPad touch screen. In fact, Spyglass tells Health Populi, start-ups and other “nimble” EHR software developers stand to make great gains as the iPad EHR increasingly catches on.
IT departments and vendors shouldn’t just learn to stop worrying and love the iPad. After all, there are plenty of other mobile devices on the market that are also worth targeting. Plus, not all clinical applications will work on the iPad screen; even certain EHR functionality is better suited for a client. However, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that those who ignore the potential impact of the iPad in health care do so at their own peril.