Needed iPad Feature for Healthcare IT and EHR

As most of you know, in my pre-blogger life I was a tech guy. In healthcare I did top to bottom IT support at a health and counseling center. I dealt with everything from servers to networking to desktop support to project management and everything in between. It was a great job since I was never bored and always had a variety of things to do. Not to go into my entire career history, but just to say that it’s with good reason that I’m @techguy on Twitter. I love tech and always will.

When I think back to my tech support days, I remember one time where we had an influx of cash as part of a big move into a new building. With that move we ordered ~100 new desktop and laptop computers. You can imagine the logistics of deploying this many devices all at once. We had to take over what use to be a conference room in order to make it happen.

One of the keys for myself and my student worker to be able to deploy all of these devices quickly and effectively was desktop imaging software. We installed one computer with all of the necessary applications and other security configurations. Then, we copied that computer to all of the other computers. It made for a wonderfully consistent experience for everyone and made support so much easier. Plus, if and when someone had issues with their desktop computer I’d just restore it back to the original install point.

None of this information will be all that exciting for those tech people reading this blog post. However, most that read this site aren’t that technical and so hopefully it gives some perspective to those readers.

The point of telling this background is that I think it’s one of the major weaknesses of the iPad. Can you reinstall the iPad after use? Can you restore it back to it’s original install point? Sure, if you’re in a solo physician practice or small group then maybe this doesn’t matter as much. However, if you’re in a hospital or large group practice these types of features can be really important to your IT people.

I’ve argued since nearly the beginning of the iPad that the big issue for the iPad in healthcare is the lack of enterprise features. The features described above are just a few simple examples of enterprise features that I’m not sure the iPad will ever support. Sure we’ll still see the iPad in healthcare. We already do see it, but we’ll never see the ubiquitous adoption of iPad in healthcare without these features.

I’m sure that some would suggest that by using a remote desktop application like Citrix you can achieve much of the enterprise features that I mention above and more. Things like security of data are much easier in Citrix. I’m just still skeptical that any remote desktop application can reach the type of iPad usability that a native iPad app can achieve.

I am interested to see how well the new Windows 8 platform will do. The idea of marrying the best of the tablet/iPad world with the best of the desktop world is an interesting idea. We’ll see if they’re able to walk that balance beam and provide that seamless experience across both sides of the aisle.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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.

9 Comments

  • What you are saying is completely true about the iPad.

    Plus, tablets just aren’t a good input device…but great output devices.

    Funny you mention hard drive imaging. I’m actually in the final testing phase on a product that does image management for PC’s and can run that image on a Mac.

    At this point I’m cautiously giddy as this product has the ability to simplify a physicians life by ensuring complete encryption, complete access security, remote wiping, instant OS regeneration (this means a virus or spyware is gone in seconds)…

    Pardon me while I push my glasses up my nose and chortle…

    There is also secure file sharing on the iPad.

    I have to be careful because I start talking about this and get excited, yet knowing how EHR platforms are, I keep waiting for something not to work.

    So far, tested on two different EHRs with no issues.

  • Can you reinstall the iPad after use? Can you restore it back to it’s original install point?

    You can backup at any time and restore to that backup (choosing among multiple previous backups) at any time. So in that sense the answer is yes.

    No full-disk images for iOS, as you point out, but there’s a configuration system for remote management

    I’m sure there are minor weaknesses, but iPhones and iPads are not unmanageable.

  • Please go to the apple store and ask for a business group manager. They will clearly explain that the above windows-educated comments clearly aren’t true.

    You can remote wipe 1 or 1000 iPads at the click of the enterprise tool set. You can set up VPN tunnels to anything else stated above. There is a reason 90% of the market has bought apple iPads. And look at the new ios6.0 feature set too.

  • And there is a “full disk image” tool to relocate and manage 1000’s of iPads at once. Please do some basic education before making false comments about the best and most robust tablet on the market. Please research iOS 6.0 features. There is a reason apple overtook Microsoft. Whenever I read comments like the above mis-stated comments, I don’t understand why Microsoft centric IT guys don’t open their eyes and read and educate themselves, or soon they will be dinosaurs like RIM. And this healthcare space will still need the bright IT guys…but not the ones stuck in the year 2000.

  • For my respected colleagues here at EMR AND HIPAA, may I suggest these links for Enterprise iOS (iPhone/iPad) info for anyone who might like more info.

    (I don’t do enterprise IT myself, so I don’t know everything about what’s available.)

    Apple iPhone Enterprise Support Page

    Apple iPhone in Business

    iOS 6 Preview overview Ad-like, but gives you the big picture on what’s coming this fall.

    For the technical goodies on iOS 6, you need a free developer account to get the info under NDA. There’s reference info and WWDC videos, much at a technical but non-programmer level. Apple Dev Center

    Apple hasn’t always been great at providing business features, so skepticism is understandable, but they’re pretty serious these days.

    One point about security, from an iOS programmer (me): iOS now has a robust security system that does whole-disk encryption one better: while the device is locked, all secured application data remains encrypted under the passcode, while allowing parts of the OS to be unlocked so that phone and background apps can function. Security of data is easy for app developers to provide using the APIs built into iOS.

  • @John, I assure you there would be a similar outcry if W8, Android, or even Symbian were so grossly mischaracterized.

  • Thanks everyone for the extra information on what Apple is doing to try and venture into the enterprise space on their devices. I still think they have a ways to go to meet all the enterprise needs. I hope they get there though.

    Seems like there’s still a challenge they face since instead of working with existing tools that are well known in the enterprise they’re creating a new tool set which is still going to hinder adoption by many enterprises.

    I personally don’t care Windows or Apple either way. I like to use the best tool for the job. Although, many enterprise health IT people won’t follow that same strategy.

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