From The Editor | February 18, 2010

The Apple iPad's Impact On Healthcare

Vicki's NL headshots and images
By Ken Congdon, Editor In Chief, Health IT Outcomes

Two weeks ago, Apple unveiled its latest creation — the iPad. Apple's take on the tablet computer is set to hit stores in April and, with its 9.7-inch full-color touchscreen, it's expected to place a great deal of competitive pressure on existing e-books and netbooks. However, the jury is still out on how significant an impact the iPad will have on the healthcare industry. With several clinicians currently leveraging iPhones and other smartphones, some experts believe the iPad will be the catalyst that finally drives the healthcare community away from the desktop and toward point of care computing. However, a clear majority (including members of our audience) aren't quite ready to believe the hype. In a Health IT Outcomes survey conducted two days after Apple's iPad announcement, only 5.3% of our audience believed the iPad would have a major impact on the healthcare industry, 19.8% felt the iPad would have a moderate impact, and an overwhelming 74.9% of our audience thought the iPad would have little to no impact on the healthcare industry. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of iPad use in the healthcare environment.

iPad Healthcare Pros
The iPad does have several things going for it that will make it appealing to clinicians and healthcare IT professionals alike. First off, is the price. Starting at $499 (for a 16GB Wi-Fi model) and maxing out at $829 (for a 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G model), the iPad is an affordable tablet option for point of care applications. Second, the large 9.7-inch interface makes the iPad much more suitable for viewing patient records and medical images than its smartphone counterparts. The iPad also comes equipped with a battery that has approximately 10 hours of life per charge, providing clinicians with a reliable device that can withstand long shifts. Furthermore, the iPad features standard Wi-Fi and/or 3G wireless connectivity, which will allow physicians to always stay connected to line-of-business applications, such as EMR (electronic medical record) and practice management software suites. Finally, the iPad includes an external keyboard that attaches to the device, providing an easier option for extensive data entry.

iPad Healthcare Cons
While the battery life of the iPad is good, the iPad suffers from the fact that the battery is not replaceable. Therefore, if the battery dies during a shift, it can't be swapped out for another for continuous operation. Once battery life is low, the device must be charged for continued use. Also, while portable, the iPad isn't as convenient as its pocket-sized smartphone counterparts. Several physicians will still prefer smartphones to the iPad for several point of care applications. Furthermore, unlike other tablet computers geared specifically toward the healthcare market, the iPad is not a rugged device, so it won't withstand spills, splashes, drops, and disinfection as well as healthcare-specific devices. Finally, the iPad doesn't come equipped with a digital camera, which means physicians can't use the device to take photos of patient conditions (i.e. skin conditions, trauma, etc.) to upload and attach to the electronic patient record.

All of these features and functionalities aside, the impact of the iPad in healthcare will most likely be determined by the quality of the device's SDK (software development kit) and the robustness of its AppStore. While healthcare reviews for the iPad are mixed at this juncture, we at Health IT Outcomes are willing to bet that a large percentage of healthcare professionals will be interested in owning Apple's latest nifty gadget. That's why we in conjunction with our sponsors Access, ibml, Kronos, and RES-Q will be giving away an iPad to one lucky winner at this year's HIMSS conference. Stop by our booth (#2509) for your chance to win!

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