Physicians Say iPad Not Ready For Clinical Computing

Doctors love them, but don’t think the iPad is ready to play a major role in clinical practice, as Apple hasn’t done enough to optimize it for healthcare, according to a new study by Spyglass Consulting Group.

According to a new report by Spyglass,  doctors don’t feel the iPad is ready to have an impact on care delivery. While 80 percent of physicians responding predicted that the iPad will have a positive impact on future care, it’s just not ready today, they said. (Most doctors I’ve talked with agree, noting that while it’s great for reading data, it’s extremely difficult to use for data entry.)

We’re not at all surprised to hear this given some of the iPad horror stories traveling around. For example, when Seattle Children’s Hospital pilot-tested iPads for its doctors, the result was a complete flop. Doctors there complained that that it was just too awkward to enter data into the otherwise sexy device. Shortly thereafter, IT switched its plans and rolled out a zero-client set-up.

So, what will it take to make the iPad clinically useful? To be successful in healthcare, Apple and its partners need to rewrite and optimize clinical apps to include gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and even video conferencing, Spyglass research concludes.

I’d add that EMR/EHR vendors need to create native front ends for the iPad; given its penetration among doctors, I’m baffled by vendors who demand that doctors use their system via Citrix or the Web.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Epic’s Canto, few vendors offer a fully-fledged iPad app as a front end to their system. (One of few examples of a native iPad app from a smaller EMR vendor comes from Dr. Chrono, which, perhaps not so coincidentally, just got $2.8 million in venture funding.)

What’s more, Apple will have to do something about iOS security. It’s little wonder that 75  percent of doctors said that hospital IT departments weren’t eager to support mobile devices on corporate networks. While any device exposes networks to additional threats, Apple seems to have some particularly difficult problems, especially where its Safari browser is concerned.

Like the doctors surveyed by Spyglass, I have little doubt that iPads will end up assuming an important role in healthcare.  But given the snail’s pace at which native iPad apps are being launched, it may be a long time before that happens.

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.


  • All mobile devices will have issues with clinical use for multiple reasons. First, PACs images will be very hard to view, so you are then having to go back and forth between devices. Secondly, the device itself is not robust enough survive the day to day use/abuse. IPads specifically have a cost hurdle to overcome as well. Finally, as most data providers step away from unlimited data packages, the cost for getting all that data to the device is variable and increasing.

  • The mobile app sounds ok. I like the line that says its for small physician practices. It may be, but Centricity is not for small hospitals. Centricity is one of the most expensive solutions available. Wifi might mitigate the data issue, but if you are are tied to a Wifi hotspot, then the iPad isn’t much better than any other much cheaper tablet like Enmotion.

  • The other data prices will come down and Wifi will become more and more widely available. Although, you’re right that there are other tablets that are cheaper and more secure. I’m not trying to argue against that.

  • The iPad is not the problem, it’s the software. EMR vendors have to get used to a whole new paradigm to build successful software for the iPad.

  • I agree a new paradigm is needed but probably a more radical one.

    Paper-based systems in secondary care have proven difficult to eradicate, and in the UK, the single case-note file follows the patient around from department to department. Its simple and it works – so why not do much the same thing electronically? Imagine, a tablet (eg an iPad) for each in-patient, on which will be the only accessible copy of that patient’s EPR. It would, of course be synchronised with a central server, thus if the tablet was lost, unavailable, etc the data could be transferred to another iPad

    Access to the iPad would be via a barcode – which is on the patient’s ID band. The patient controls the access and decides who should see their data etc.

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