By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes
Many believed the demise of Google Health all but ended Google's prominence in the healthcare industry. However, the company may have given itself new life in the healthcare technology sector with its acquisition of Motorola Mobility earlier this month. The acquisition provides Google with ownership of Motorola's line of Droid smartphones and XOOM tablet computers — mobile devices that are currently in high demand by healthcare practitioners and technologists. Furthermore, interest in mobile devices and applications is only expected to increase in healthcare circles as wireless point-of-care and telehealth initiatives gain increased support.
A Sector Divided
While the Motorola acquisition revives Google's relevance in the healthcare space, it may be indicative of a trend that could pose significant compatibility issues to the healthcare industry going forward. For example, as described by Gene Marks in his recent Forbes column, Google Buys Motorola Mobility … And So Begins The Dark Ages, Google's acquisition of the mobility giant is yet another illustration of vertical integration between mobile hardware and software (Apple's hardware/software unification and HP's hardware/WebOS unification being two others).
It's clear that significant alignment between software and devices are beginning to emerge when it comes to mobile solutions in general. This means that healthcare providers will be forced to use certain mobile software (e.g. Apple OS, Android OS, Microsoft Mobile, etc.) based on their device preferences, or vice versa. This hardware/software alignment will not only be limited to the underlying operating systems, but will likely extend to the application level as well. It may become too costly and time consuming for software developers (particularly smaller ones) to develop software that is compatible with each OS. This means that software developers will have to make careful decisions on which platforms to align their software applications. Likewise, healthcare providers will need to be well informed as to application compatibility when making their mobile platform decisions because not all healthcare mobile applications or software programs will be available on all mobile devices. Of particular concern to healthcare providers will be how this hardware/software alignment will impact other significant technology investments many healthcare providers have already made — namely EHRs.
A key contributor to successful EHR adoption is ensuring the EHR is securely accessible to clinicians via a mobile device (e.g. laptop, tablet, etc.). Integration between established EHRs and certain mobile devices may prove difficult in this new age of mobile hardware/software alignment. Healthcare providers need to be cognizant of these potential integration issues, and make their mobile device purchasing decisions accordingly.
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