I don’t think we have ever seen a piece of technology as polarizing as the recently released Apple iPad. Being Vice President of Innovation at a healthcare-focused iPhone development company, I have received an unbelievable amount of feedback (some solicited, some not) on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the iPad’s potential uses in healthcare.
The first potential use models are the usual suspects we have all been hearing about for the last 3-6 months: entering data into the EMR, viewing medical images, observing patient data, managing alarms and alerts, etc, etc,etc... I can go on, and on, but you already know all of these because they are available right now on your iPhone.
Don’t get me wrong- all of these functions are wonderful, but nothing here is really game-changing. I consider these the foundation of what is necessary to bring this device into healthcare in a useful manner.
In my opinion, the greatest impact this platform will have on healthcare is going to be from the creative juices squeezed out of the developer’s minds who will be writing applications specifically geared for the iPad and its potential use model.
You have got to look beyond version 1.0 of the iPad and into what it will become in the second, third, and onward generations of the device /platform. Apple tends to make significant improvements to their product between the first and second generation releases (2nd Gen iPhone >> 1st Gen iPhone). The limitations that have been brought up are all valid, but will be alleviated over time or through simple physical remedies.
It won’t survive in the hospital environment?
A robust, antimicrobial case will be out by the end of 2010 - it can almost be guaranteed.
No camera for image taking?
It will be there by Gen 2 (not for healthcare, but because consumers want it).
Too big to fit in a pocket?
The workflow model should not position this as an “always carried” device.
The one limitation that had me on the verge of throwing my MacBook across the office was the lack of background processing. While potentially the greatest shortcoming of the iPad, after some thought and analysis, it needs to be viewed as a mixed blessing... This device is going to have 1GHz of processing power focused on ONE application. The user experience in the currently open application is going to be amazing, assuming developers take time to re-factor their applications to fully leverage this “limitation.”
Through appropriate use of inter-app communication and data sharing, a great deal of the concerns brought on by no backgrounding can be bridged relatively easily. The key is going to be the foundational applications leveraging and creating open-source frameworks and standards that can be leveraged across multiple vendors in a collaborative environment.
The first day the iPad is released in March, all of the technology and applications are in place to enable a caregiver to view their patient’s vital monitoring waveform (Airstrip Technology), check the data against their EMR (Epic Haiku), and then send a quick message to an appropriate staff member asking them to take action on a potential event (Voalté).
While these currently reside as three separate applications, the experience provided to the end-user should not feel as such. The real power of the iPad (and even iPhone) platform is going to be a collaborative environment between the vendors that reside on the device. This collaboration will be of even greater importance with the iPad due to the greater amount of real-estate the end user has to work with.
I can envision a hospital where an iPad is placed outside every hospital room displaying relevant information about the patient and theircurrent vitals (REALLY decentralized monitoring). Clinicians grab the iPad as they enter the room, sign inwith a quick series of hand gestures (or maybe take a quick picture of their ID?), and easily enter information into the open application regarding the patient’s current status. Messages and tasks can be dispatched to the right caregiver automatically from the iPad,and the clinician places the device back into the cradle once done with the patient. All of the pieces for this experience are currently in-place and ready to be tied together.
Apple has provided the revolutionary platform we could have only dreamed of 10 years ago. It is now our responsibility as application developers and IT system administrators to turn those dreams into reality and provide the end user experience our clinicians deserve.