iPads: Just What The Doctor Ordered

March 21

Remember the days of good old pagers? Doctors sure do. They and other healthcare professionals have taken advantage of mobile technology for quite some time now. But, instead of the pager or cell phone, more recently, it's the iPad that's become increasingly popular for doctors to carry. Chilmark Research concludes that 22% of doctors within the United States use iPads. Regarding those that haven't yet adopted the iPad, 25% of Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) members surveyed plan to utilize the iPad and other iOS devices immediately while 70% are planning to within a year. And it's not just any tablet that healthcare providers are choosing; they're specifically favoring the iPad. To be exact, 79% of healthcare professionals would choose the iPad for professional use over a Windows PC (12%) or an Android-based tablet (9%).

Even Apple has taken note of the iPad gaining traction within healthcare settings. During his presentation of the iPad 2, Steve Jobs featured a testimonial from Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. During which, Halamka claims "Sometimes doctors are overwhelmed with data, what we have tried to do with the iPad is to give doctors at the point of care, the tools they need at the exact moment the doctor can make a difference. We're finding with the iPad doctors are spending more time with patients. In fact, doctors are engaging patients by showing them images, showing them data on the screen."

The iPad does foster physician-patient interaction while serving as an educational platform for patients with its impressive graphics and visual capabilities. But that's just one of many reasons healthcare professionals are choosing the iPad as their mobile device of choice. A host of point-of-care applications have been developed specifically for the iPad, resulting in the doctors' ability to have faster interactions with patients. Doctors can instantly order tests, submit prescriptions and view X-rays, MRI results and ultrasound scans on the iPad. Apps have been developed to allow remote access to fetal monitors, lab results and other electronic medical records, enabling physicians to view and evaluate symptoms and monitor patients from home in real time. There are also applications to aid in general admission, billing, coding and claims. The iPad is still convenient and small, despite its' huge capabilities and like the traditional clipboard, it contains a large screen when compared to a smart phone.

The new features of the iPad 2 will surely enhance its use within healthcare settings.

  • The new version features front- and rear-facing cameras plus a gyroscope. A picture says a thousand words. Doctors can use the camera to capture still images or a video of a patient's visual symptoms and discuss them with fellow colleagues via Apple's video chat app, FaceTime.
  • It contains an A5 dual-core processor that enables it to run much faster. The iPad 2 processes images up to nine times faster than the original iPad, allowing for even quicker access to X-rays and CT scans.
  • The second generation is 33% thinner, 8.8mm, versus the original version's 13.4 mm. It's also 15% lighter. The new version weighs in at 1.3 pounds compared to the old version's 1.5 pounds - making it even less burdensome for doctors to carry.

As a result of increased popularity and functionality within the medical realm, some healthcare providers are beginning to support iPads on the backend or even roll out initiatives to provide them to employees. Vendors are developing EMR applications specifically for the iPad such as ClearPractice's Nimble. It's projected that the market for mHealth in the enterprise will reach $1.7 billion in 2014.

Your healthcare organization may not have deployed company-issued iPads. But that doesn't mean your employees aren't using them. If you haven't seen your doctors and nurses carrying them around, you may not be looking hard enough. Apple has not been pushing the iPad into the enterprise market; employees are. Healthcare personnel are toting their personal iPads to work and using them on the job and by their own volition. Check their lockers or their lab coats; you're sure to turn up at least a few iPads.

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