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Will no Flash for iPad hurt its chances in health care?

Last week, Adobe Systems — which owns Flash — abandoned its plans to support Flash on the Apple iPhone and iPad. The former is a smash-hit smartphone among doctors, nurses and other providers, while the latter could potentially supplant at least some of the laptops those same providers tote from patient to patient. No Flash for iPad changes the tablet’s outlook.

Flash’s market strength is video. A PracticeFusion blog entry written in February around the introduction of the iPad mentioned that 70% of games and 75% of video on the Web are written in Flash, which at first blush wouldn’t seem to affect health care providers much.

Except it does. Many of us connect with Flash on the Web via sites featuring mostly unintelligent content, dumb greeting cards and juvenile games, and that’s the impression we get of its utility. Flash, however, has a very serious side, too. Adobe is known for excellent imaging and document technologies; Adobe Reader, its PDF viewer, and Flash are on a majority of the world’s computers.

Those games could just as easily be electronic health record apps, or forms that feed into EHR apps. The video could be a live stream of a medical procedure, or a remote reading of an imaging study such as an ultrasound. Just because developers haven’t written it yet doesn’t mean it’s not on the drawing board. In fact, it’s likely that some vendors have been waiting for Apple and Adobe to kiss and make up so health care providers don’t have to jailbreak their iPhones to see Flash files.

For now, that’s not going to happen. The PracticeFusion blogger probably is on to something, suggesting it’s all about Apple wanting to capture as much revenue as possible at its App Store by restricting the platforms upon which developers can build. But if that eventually leads to other smartphones and other tablets taking over the health care market, we’ll look back on this week as the exact point Apple cut off its nose to spite its face, and Adobe just decided to quit trying to develop Flash for iPad.

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