Expanding the Definition of Mobile Devices

I think it was Wayne Gretzky that said that the reason he was so successful as a hockey player was that while everyone else is playing with the puck at their feet, he would instead anticipate where the puck would be and that’s what made him so special.

I think we see far too many companies in the healthcare IT industry that are just “working with the puck at their feet” instead of anticipating where the puck is going.

I’ve seen that to some extent this week at the Mobile Health Conference. Everyone seems to be talking about the smart phones and then they casually mention the iPad also. Both of these technologies seem to be the puck at our feet.

I haven’t seen many people really looking at where the “puck,” mobile devices, is going to go.

For example, I’ve regularly argued that the iPad is a really interesting device and will likely be a game changer. Although, it won’t be the iPad specifically that’s going to revolutionize everything (since it’s the puck at our feet). Instead, the iPad’s features and concepts are going to be widely adopted and provide the innovation for the future of mobile healthcare and mobile EMR.

One feature is the mobility of the iPad. It seems to be the right form factor for it to be reasonably portable. It also uses 3G network connectivity that makes it portable. These types of changes are what’s going to really take healthcare mobile. Certainly the iPad isn’t the only one. There’s plenty of Netbooks which do this also.

However, the iPad did something that the Netbooks don’t do and that is changing the input method to a touch based system. Combining the mobility of the form factor, the 3G connection and the touch interface and now you can see the innovations that make the iPad interesting.

These features are the innovations behind the iPad. Soon we’re going to have a few hundred device options which innovate on top of these main innovations. For example, the touch input ability is really just getting started. Watch for it to become mainstream as more and more companies adopt and improve the technology.

My point being that mobile devices won’t just be smart phones and iPads. Those are just the start and we’re about to see a whole wave of mobile devices that need to be considered by those working in mobile healthcare.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • I think that the future application of mobile technology to healthcare makes for an exciting future. The idea of many companies “working with the puck of at their feet” is probably not a good omen for their future prospects. These companies would probably do better if they considered Henry Ford’s comment: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Anticipating the future developments, and filling these needs, will separate the mediocre companies from the superstars. I look forward to additional updates from your experience at the Mobile Health Conference.

  • The exciting thing about the iPad is not just it’s mobility–it’s the right size, shape and weight to replace the ubiquitous 3-ring binder, and still big enough to interact with the EMR for order entry. The 7 inch pads coming just won’t do for that purpose.

    I think we’re going to see 2 different kinds of applications of tablets: 1) hospital facilitated, where you have full IT support and infrastructural changes to support the tablets (where they completely replace the status quo), and 2) physician facilitated, where docs just use their own devices, whatever they are, to interact with the EMR.

    #2 will hopefully lead to #1 and we can finally say buh-bye to the tangled wires and big old slow hot boxes and COWs. Can’t wait for the end of the PC era.

  • brian,
    That was one of the interesting things I heard at the conference this week too. Basically, #2 where physicians drive adoption and use of these technologies based on their own use of it which leads to #1. The person compared it to when the Palm Pilot first came out and doctors just started buying and using them and hospitals had to make policies around them since doctors pretty much demanded their use.

  • Was there any discussion at the conference about when pagers are going to die for good? I was thinking about that the other day. Its amazing to still see people who work in hospitals with pagers on their hips. Is healthcare the only industry still relying on pagers instead of using email or text messaging to your cell phone vs. having to carry a separate device around?

  • Dan,
    I think one person mentioned it. Basically, smart phones will one day replace them. Just not sure how long that’s going to take.

    BTW, I met your web guy at WordCamp Las Vegas today. Small world.

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