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Apple iPad in Healthcare: Pros and Cons

I’m not really an Apple fan, but I’m always open to innovations in healthcare. Last week was centered around iPad both in the news and the blogosphere as more and more bloggers started to describe its potential role in healthcare. It’s obvious now that healthcare will go through some major changes in the next few years due to EMRs (electronic medical records) and PHRs (personal health records). Though Boston has already gone through this.

Tablet solutions have a clear future (pdf) but as Apple tablet representatives were spotted at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a few weeks ago, it seems iPad might have a shot in healthcare as well. Let’s see what can happen.

Possible cons from the healthcare aspect:

  • No camera: it means it cannot be used in telemedicine
  • No flash: several medical websites use Flash
  • No mouse support: it’s not a disadvantage if there won’t be click-heavy applications
  • Battery life: It is somewhere around 10 hours which is enough for a doctor working on the hospital but what happens when the iPad gets handed off to the next person? Dying battery can be swapped out for a fresh one in other tablet solutions. Here there won’t be enough time to re-charge iPads.
  • It’s too big to fit into a doctor’s pocket.
  • iPad is not ruggedized while other healthcare tablets are drop resistant from about a meter.
  • No Multi-tasking: it makes it impossible to write a patient report while consulting with a collegue (there are hundreds of examples why multi-tasking is crucial)
  • No barcode scanner: it’s used for checking and uploading drugs, among others.
  • Such a device should be water-proof and easily disinfected. iPad wasn’t designed for this.
  • The iPad has a capacitive touch screen on which gloves won’t work.

Possible pros:

  • If there is a company that can get the best out of such a device, that is Apple.
  • Probably there will be more and more medical applications designed exclusively for iPad just like there are so many medical apps for iPhone.
  • It’s cheaper than other healthcare tablets.
  • It was designed to be as user-friendly as possible (a nice advantage of Apple products) so elderly people will also be able to learn to use it easily.
  • One scenario might be having an iPad in the hospital as the central database where doctors can upload the information from the iPhones.

If I miss anything, please let me know so I can improve the list.

I think iPad has the potential to become the No.1 healthcare tablet, but it has to go through plenty of changes and innovations in order to become a serious competitor in this race.

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67 Comments Post a comment
  1. The Ipad is not a new idea at all, but whenever apple makes the product, its hailed as the next big thing. Sure, it could easily be one of the new products for healthcare, patients reading up on their own illness (whichever) – but it sure isn’t new.

    January 31, 2010
  2. Tony Martin #

    The whole multitasking thing is moot, because a third party vendor will offer your iPad to run Windows 7 via cloud computing solution. So you are running apps on a server running Windows, you can knock your socks off doing multitasking, and not have to worry about draining your battery while doing it. Happy now?

    February 1, 2010
  3. Bob #

    We’re in ‘phase 2′ of the iPad when all the pundits come out and complain (they did the same thing with the iPhone and later ate their words). See David Pogue’s insightful article on this phenomenon: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/david-pogues-first-look-at-the-apple-ipad/

    February 1, 2010
    • Alexander Cardosa #

      Oh so well said, and there will be plenty once it comes out for a few months.

      I love how the cons don’t make sense.

      No camera: it means it cannot be used in telemedicine
      NICE IDEA BUT THE 2 DOCTORS I GO TO DON’T HAVE IT EITHER
      THEY USE TOUCH SCREEN LAPTOP AND CONSIDERING THE WEIGHT

      No flash: several medical websites use Flash
      YES THANK YOU FOR NO FLASH, TRUE SOME PLACES USE IT, AND DOES IT DOG A LOT OF COMPUTERS, MAYBE IF ADOBE OPTIMIZED IT, GIVE ME HTML5.

      Battery life: It is somewhere around 10 hours.
      DOCTORS ACTUALLY CHANGE BATTERY, WHEN IN WHAT PLACE HAVE YOU SEEN THIS, LUCKY I CAN GET SOME TO WASH THEIR HANDS.
      It’s too big to fit into a doctor’s pocket.
      GET AN IPHONE, CANT PUT LAPTOPS IN POCKET EITHER.

      iPad is not ruggedized while other healthcare tablets are drop resistant from about a meter.
      TRUE SO GET LIKE THE IPHONE A RUBER TIRE WHEN IT COMES OUT, OR TRY NOT TO DROP IT TO MUCH IF POSSIBLE, ITS A TOOL NOT A HUCKY PUCK.

      No Multi-tasking: it makes it impossible to write a patient report while consulting with a collegue (there are hundreds of examples why multi-tasking is crucial)
      THIS IS NOT STAR TREK, GET A REALITY CHECK, BATTERY DROP TO HALF WITH TRUE MULTITASKING, GO WITH LAPTOP WITH 2 HOUR BATTERY FOR THAT.

      No barcode scanner: it’s used for checking and uploading drugs, among others.
      I AM REALLY LOST ON THIS ONE, THOUGH A CAMERA WOULD HAVE HELPED ON THIS ONE, THIS IS NOT A PRODUCT DESIGNED FOR JUST COOPERATE AMERICA, ADDON WILL DEAL WITH THIS.

      Such a device should be water-proof and easily disinfected. iPad wasn’t designed for this.
      AND NEVER WILL, BUT CONSIDERING HOW MUCH DISINFECTING WE DO IN HOSPITAL TO CHARTS, NON IS THE ANSWER, DON’T WORRY CLEAN ENOUGH FOR BASIC USE, AND AUTHOR DID YOU READ ITS GLASS AND STAINLESS STEEL, MUCH MORE SANITARY THAN PAPER/PLASTIC CHARTS.
      The iPad has a capacitive touch screen on which gloves won’t work. VERY TRUE, THIS ONE WOULD LIMIT THE PRODUCT TO REAL WORLD USAGE AND NOT STAR TREK WORLD. MAYBE ONE DAY SOMEONE ELSE WILL BRING OUT SOMETHING THAT WORKS AND HAVE THIS FEATURE. BUT I AM NOT HOLDING MY BREATH.

      March 7, 2010
  4. James #

    Camera – It’s questionable how useful a camera would be, but admittedly, it would be a nice addition, but not necessarily a ‘con’

    No Flash – I would move this to the ‘pro’ column! Flash is clunky and unstable. It will be painful to wait for HTML5 to catch on, but it will.

    No Mouse – This is a departure in the way we think about computing devices… does anyone complain that an iPhone doesn’t have mouse support? No… because the interface is not the same point and click interface we have infused in our brain.

    Battery – I don’t think this will be an issue. No one walks around with these types of devices for hours on end without setting them down. There will be docking stations, and the apps and data we use on them won’t be tied to just that one device; it will be on the local network or a form of cloud. That being said, I don’t think these devices will be mobile thin clients either.

    Too Big – Okay… get an iPod Touch. The OS is the same. Your healthcare apps will have dual interfaces for each situation. Docs can pull up data on either.

    Ruggedized – I am sure someone will come up with a ‘skin’ for it that would help it in this aspect. To be honest… most the devices I have looked at that have the iPad’s same category of device cost $2k or more. iPad is almost disposable at this price point (relatively speaking)

    Multitasking – People don’t typically multitask; they rapidly refocus on different tasks. The iPad and Touches do the same; hit the home button and switch between apps as you need them. Ultimately it is up to the app devs to design their software around how people work. If someone needs to have two separate screens open, the dev needs to look at how their software works.

    Bar Code Scanner – See http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/11/03/exclusive_look_at_apples_new_ipod_touch_based_easypay_checkout.html It wouldn’t be hard for some company to make the perfect accessory for clinical settings.

    Water/Disinfection/Gloves – There is room for improvement here. Maybe it would be possible for a disposable skin to be created or gloves that allow for electrical conduction. This isn’t insurmountable.

    I appreciate your article and what you have included here. They are all good thoughts to consider. I think the biggest challenge that the iPad will face for adoption is whether the devs create great software for it. Our HIS vendor has their eye on this platform (iPod Touch, etc.) but they are approaching it from the perspective of a web page developer. What makes this platform shine is the departure from the old point-and-click desktop metaphor, to a new, more intuitive interface that you navigate with a finger. It would be a mistake for anyone to look at these devices from the perspective of a desktop or laptop and this is why previous devices like pen based tablets never really caught on.

    February 1, 2010
  5. Bob #

    The bacteria issue has been addressed with the iPhone and I am sure will be with the iPad:

    http://www.ninjacase.com/collections/ionarmour-antimicrobial-antibacterial-iphone-cases

    http://www.proporta.com/F02/PPF02P05.php?t_id=4846&t_mode=des

    February 1, 2010
  6. Derek #

    The Ipads 700 grams weight is not very light in the hands especially when the ipad has to be held in one hand to do work on it.
    Quick it may be for the elderly to lean to use but much to heavy for most to carry around without the fear of dropping it.
    Derek

    February 9, 2010
  7. I’m certain it will work very well on wireless broadband, can’t wait for it to arrive down under.

    February 9, 2010
  8. Nice gadget but I think like other stuff from Apple is overpriced.

    February 10, 2010
    • Bob #

      Hmm, I think the device is pretty cheap. It is less than the original iPhone and has the other vendors (Acer, etc) scrambling. But if you must, have fun with your $250 ‘netbook’

      February 10, 2010
    • Loyd #

      … or wait a few years so you can enjoy the affordable version, while complaining about whatever their latest product will be.

      March 24, 2010
  9. Dr. Johnston #

    I get that you wrote this prior to the release, but as a Doctor of Clinical Psychology who works in hospitals, this device has huge potential. Both Bluetooth mice and keyboards work with the device just fine, so you can remove that comment from your cons section. Also, several companies are working on covers, wraps and various types of protectors for the unit, so that really isn’t an issue. Add on camera packages handle the need for scans and conferencing, plus the barcode scanner you mention. Simple modifications make this very useable in a medical environment. And this is only the first release. The real power is in the applications which can be built to customize a healthcare provider’s needs. A secure wireless network with digital files for intakes, diagnosis and treatment planning WHILE having the web, your medical ref books (DSM in my field) at your fingertips and assessment tools, all in one compact powerful device, I only see more productivity. Not to mention patients tend to have more anxiety when multiple pages of paper are flipped around during an intake with the doc writing… Here, everything is in one place and, so far, seems to lessen the anxiety. I believe this is an argument of simply needing to think outside the box and allow adaptation to occur within each clinician and physician as we all work towards more efficient systems to serve those in need.

    June 15, 2010
    • Thank you for the comment, it’s good to see some examples where this device really works in clinical practice.

      June 17, 2010
  10. Anonymous #

    It absolutely DOES work with gloves!!!

    November 4, 2010
  11. CourtneyAdams #

    It’s going to be interesting to see how e-prescribing is impacted by not only the Ipad, but also other PDA-type of devices as well. We are in a time we these are becoming much more commonplace. Smartphones are becoming not only much more capable, but also much more popular as people and businesses learn what they can really do.

    February 1, 2011
  12. I have to agree with Jones Scott … “The Ipad is not a new idea at all, but whenever apple makes the product, its hailed as the next big thing”

    Apple use this a strategies when they do product launches… i have seen this from them over and over again.

    February 24, 2011
    • drrjv #

      Apple does seem to have the uncanny ability to perfect whatever device they design. They did this with the iPod, the iPhone and now the iPad (and watch for the next laptop killer – MacBook Pro Air).

      Windows and it’s partners have had 10+ years with tablet designs, which have gone nowhere. Apple now owns the market and will most likely again be several steps ahead of competitors with today’s announcement of the iPad 2.

      February 24, 2011
  13. Without the necessary changes Apple will be just an eBook reader and a good internet browser, I don’t think Siemens will fall asleep as a leader in healthcare industry

    February 25, 2011
    • drrjv #

      What changes?

      February 27, 2011
  14. I am looking forward to the iPad 2. I hope it will be much improved over the first version. What are your thoughts? Should I buy this one or should I wait?

    March 2, 2011
  15. Somebody need to highlight this to steve jobs. Maybe he will make necessary changes suit to healthcare industry.

    March 2, 2011
  16. This looks like a good solution to the healthcare industry. I am sure it will help to alleviate the high raising medical costs as well.

    April 8, 2011
  17. Certainly some savings in soaring healthcare costs can be effected through using technology such as the ipad. All means possible to lower these costs must be implemented

    May 29, 2011
  18. App development focused on the development of ipads apps targeted toward easy data access and processing of EMRs and PHRs, as well as general inputting of patient reports, is one of the keys to achieving greater efficiency in the provision of medical care and reduction of patient care costs. The spiraling costs of healthcare can only be countered by technological innovation that reduces doctor data access, processing and bookkeeping time so that medical professionals can dedicate more time to medical care delivery.

    June 30, 2011
  19. drrjv #

    Another big advantage of the iPad is that it forces developers to create EHR programs with consistent, easy to use user interfaces (UI).

    In my experience, most of the current EMR programs are stuck with a difficult to use, inconsistent 1980’s ‘windows’ interface. Most appear to be written in .Net which in my opinion is a horrible development platform.

    June 30, 2011
  20. Regardless the pros and cons of using iPad in the medical field, I am still dying to get myself one of those….let’s say..even if there are a lot of cons, but there isn’t a replacement that can claim to do a better job.

    July 25, 2011
  21. App development focused on the development of ipads apps targeted toward easy data access and processing of EMRs and PHRs, as well as general inputting of patient reports, is one of the keys to achieving greater efficiency in the provision of medical care and reduction of patient care costs. The spiraling costs of healthcare can only be countered by technological innovation that reduces doctor data access, processing and bookkeeping time so that medical professionals can dedicate more time to medical care delivery.Thank you for the comment, it’s good to see some examples where this device really works in clinical practice.

    July 25, 2011
  22. Robert Varipapa #

    Article is way out of date at this point:

    iPad 2

    – has camera (2 in fact)
    – Flash is a non issue (runs poorly on android, other os’s)
    – bluetooth allows mouse and keyboard (?need)
    – battery life better than any other tablet
    – size is perfect (smaller device not usable esp with Citrix)
    – multitasking works file (especially with gestures)
    – who uses a barcode scanner?
    – easier to disinfect an iPad compared to any other device

    Most EMR’s work with iPad either natively or using Citrix or RDC.

    July 25, 2011
    • Thanks for the update!

      Well, flash IS an issue, size is still too big, and everyone uses a barcode scanner :)

      August 1, 2011
      • drrjv #

        Really?

        August 2, 2011
  23. This is so great man,I’m certain it will work very well on wireless broadband, can’t wait for it to arrive down under.

    August 2, 2011
    • drrjv #

      I have an iPad 2 on ATT and it works great with their data network. I usually get between 3-5 Mbps download speeds (using Speedtest.net).

      August 2, 2011
  24. If its cheaper then other medical devices then i see this as a no brainer?

    August 5, 2011
  25. The exorbitant cost of healthcare will necessitate employing technologies to allow doctors to practice medicine, rather than consuming unnecessary hours doing paperwork. Technologies like using the ipad and employing ingenious medical record processing apps is the best way of allowing a declining number of medical practitioners to treat a growing number of patients.

    September 7, 2011
  26. john #

    I can’t wait until the ipad 3 comes out!

    September 20, 2011
  27. Excellent insight and progressive thinking to connect this to science. I never even considered how other areas such as healthcare could benefit from the iPad.

    October 14, 2011
  28. The implications behind this are awesome. This is definitely the wave of the future, happening during the present time. Nice article.

    October 26, 2011
  29. I’m loving my Ipad, it’s a must have item for everyone!

    November 4, 2011
  30. You can certainly see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

    December 27, 2011
  31. I absolutely love my iPad!

    December 27, 2011
  32. To the extent that medical practitioners can economize on the time they dedicate to attending to bookkeeping and spend more time dealing with patients, that’s all the better. If the iPad facilitates that economy, all the better

    January 23, 2012
  33. With the imminent roll-out of the iPad 3, developers will be dedicating even more resources toward the development of apps targeted toward expedited processing of PHR’s and EMR’s. Timely, accurate, and easy inputting of patient reports will be the next avenue of cost savings in the ongoing effort to decrease the spiraling cost of healthcare. Since the inappropriately named Affordable Care Act has been a failure in curbing medical costs and expenses, technological innovation that reduces doctor bookkeeping time (necessary with an increased number of patients and fewer doctors in the profession) and the expense of processing patient records will be the most likely means to lower healthcare costs.

    March 6, 2012
  34. I hardly comment, but i did some searching and wound up here Apple iPad in
    Healthcare: Pros and Cons ScienceRoll. And I do have 2 questions for you if you tend not to mind.
    Is it only me or does it look like some of these responses come across like written by brain dead people? :-P And, if you are writing on additional social sites, I would like
    to follow everything fresh you have to post. Would you list of all of
    your communal sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

    October 31, 2012

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