iPad Mania in Healthcare May Be Exaggerated

In all my years writing about healthcare and technology, I’ve never seen such a storm of enthusiasm over a new medical device.  If the newspaper and blog coverage is any indication, we have no less than a moral duty to give an iPad to every practicing physician, stocked with a variety of the coolest medical apps.

In fact, Apple itself has jumped on the bandwagon, with its most recent iPad2 commercials displaying medical apps.

This, of course, has serious implications for EMR developers.  If the iPad is eclipsing even the desktop and smartphone as a primary means of accessing medical information, their focus will have to shift from a traditional client-server model — and perhaps even existing SaaS options — to one which is more modularized.  Their assumptions  about users’ interaction with their interface will need to be different as well.

The thing is, despite all of this discussion, I’ve seen no stats to back up the notion that even tech-friendly doctors see iPads as indispensable.

Where the iPhone (or at least smartphones generally) are concerned, sure, there seems to be plenty of research documenting that most physicians rely on them. But while there’s lots of anecdotes circulating about the iPad’s central future in medicine, none of the research firms covering the healthcare industry seem to have documented this trend.

What’s more, as a consumer whose family sees a lot of specialists — a few of us have chronic illnesses — I’ve never seen an iPad in anyone’s hands.  Walk into a coffee shop in the prosperous D.C. metro suburbs where I live, and sure, at least one consumer will have one.  But in DC medical offices, not so much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if I were a product manager with an EMR vendor, I’d create an iPad interface and trumpet its existence to the world — it makes marketing sense if nothing else. One vendor which has already taken this tack is DrChrono, which prominently advertises the iPad version of its free EMR.

Regardless, I’m still waiting to see more evidence that the buzz around the medical iPad is more than just the expertly-crafted legends Apple creates around its products.  (Should we sense some Pixar magic here?) Anyway, just because everyone says something’s cool doesn’t mean it is.  I mean, we learned that in high school, didn’t we?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

6 Comments

  • Ms. Rouke,

    Good article ma’am. I did some quick research on Gartner and they point toward the iPad and tablets in general on the rise in healthcare. This data was obtained in their “Hype Cycle for Healthcare 2010” report.

    However, they do put some caveats:
    Tablet PCs are of limited benefit for general
    clinical end users, but they are well-suited for point-of-care and physician use. While the iPad
    may not be well-suited for hospitals, it should speed up adoption of the form factor. Entrance into
    the market of Apple’s iPad has raised awareness of tablets and increased the number and variety
    of pilot tests within healthcare delivery organizations.

    Since you mentioned High School, if all the cool kids have iPads, then are doctors may feel pressured to carry one around to look like they are part of the “in-crowd”. Even if they are marginally effective as an endpoint for EMR, they get to play Angry Birds and look productive!

  • Ms. Rourke-
    It is not at all uncommon for form and function to lead to mass adoption of new technologies. This is called moving from “early adopters” to pragmatists, eloquently explained in detail in Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm,” one of the bibles of technology business books. With the iPad and physicians, they may be the pragmatists that cross last, after everyone else has jumped over. So, I would say wait and see how the iPad will integrate into EMR. My perspective is that, just like smartphones, email and fax machines, they will carve out their niche and become a necessity in whatever that niche may be, and you can be sure EMRs will clamor to be one of them.

  • At its base the real purpose for EMR and EHR is to capture and store records more effectively. The iPad certainly lends itself to that.

    I still and always will believe that web based technology is the best possible avenue for emr development. It is the the most universal platform for data exchange. And it allows conntection.

    And lets face it most doctors dont really embrace technology very well as they really dont seem to like change, and furthermore seem to feel like they are pummeled by large purchases to keep up with it. In my humble opinion why develop “in house platforms” for doctors as they require constant management to change. With internet based systems the changes or updates are made it one place not hundreds and the technology changes happen behind the scenes.
    The Ipad is tailor made for this as all the hard computing is done on the servers controlled by the people that are paid to make sure they functioning properly.
    I think it can be an effective tool but only if you don’t separate yourself form the herd by using an Ipad exclusive app.

  • Good Article. Interesting to read the comment that iPads are not well suited for Hospitals. Well we have seen a very different case. Out Patient wards, Primary Physicians did not seem to benefit much from iPad use and most did’nt use it after the first 2 days when it was about “That shiny new device”. Quoting a Dr Sarthak: ” Yeh sundar hai bas” Translated into “This is only beautiful”.

    The biggest time savings and the best adoption rate amongst users we saw in deploying our EMRs over iPads came in In Patient Wards for both Nurses taking readings and Doctors on rounds.

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