From The Editor | June 30, 2010

iPhone Versus iPad In Healthcare

Vicki's NL headshots and images

By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes

The new Apple iPhone 4G is slated to be released this week and orders for the new gadget are already pouring in. Estimated pre-orders for the new iPhone (the product was announced on June 23, 2010) topped 1.7 million in only three days, easily surpassing all previous iPhone rollouts.

The new device boasts several advantages over earlier models. First, the A4 processor in the iPhone 4 makes the phone much faster than the iPhone 3GS and virtually eliminates any lag time in user interaction. Second, the ‘retina display' screen on the iPhone 4G displays images and text in 4x the resolution of earlier iPhones, increasing text readability and graphic detail. The new iPhone is also smaller than earlier models. However, despite these advantages, some skeptics have criticized the iPhone 4 as being "just a small iPad." This is ironic because the iPad was similarly criticized as being "just a big iPhone."

This comparison is warranted, considering iPads and iPhones do share many features and functionalities. However, there are a few key differences between the two Apple products that can help you determine whether an iPhone or an iPad, both products, or neither of the products will be beneficial to your healthcare environment.

Size May Matter
For the most part, you can do everything on an iPhone that you can do on an iPad. Furthermore, both devices are portable enough to be taken to the patient bedside. The only real difference between the two devices is the screen size (3.5" on the iPhone versus 9.7" on the iPad). However, this can be a huge factor depending on what you're using the device for. For example, if you're using the device to read or enter patient notes or orders, constantly zooming in or out on an image to see or interact with different areas on a form can quickly become annoying. On the iPad, the need to zoom is limited because of the larger screen size. The larger screen size can also help physicians see more detail in medical images such as X-Rays or MRIs. Therefore, if primary applications for the device will include CPOE (computerized physician order entry), patient record keeping, or medical image viewing, then the iPad may be the ideal selection.

That being said, the iPad does have some limitations. The primary limitation being that it's not a phone. Therefore, a user can't make or receive phone calls using the device (unless they use Skype), nor can they send or receive text messages. If these two functions are vital to your healthcare applications, then the iPad just won't cut it. You'll need to invest in an iPhone or a cell phone or smartphone to complement your iPad. Furthermore, while the iPad is portable, it's by no means a pocket-sized device like the iPhone.

In closing, I'd just like to be clear that I am in no way endorsing the Apple iPad or iPhone as the end-all, be-all of mobile devices for the healthcare industry. There are several tablet computers and smartphones by other vendors that offer their own distinct competitive advantages. I encourage you to evaluate the pros and cons of all mobile devices on the market before making a technology decision for your healthcare facility. I simply chose to focus this article on the iPhone and iPad because of the recent news coverage and reader interest I have seen on the topic lately.

Ken Congdon is Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. He can be reached at