Macs in Medicine - Thinking Different about Technology in Healthcare

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A few thought on the iPad as a medical device.

There is a nice post over at MedGadget that links to several other posts which muse on whether the iPad will be a medical device hit. They offer may cons against the iPad and point out some pros for its use.

Here is the link to MedGadget:

Here is my synopsis of and thoughts on the of the points in the articles.

No Flash: Ugh this again. I don’t know of flash in any major medical apps. I could be wrong, but I think most flash use is out on the web. This could impact sites accessed for research or fact checking. But lack of Farmville won’t matter. Personally I have ClickToFlash installed and love it. Not a Problem

No Camera: Wasn’t it not that long ago that there was a moral panic over camera phones in the hospital. I can see where this would be nice for documenting dermal lesions. Room for Improvement

No Mouse: As a tablet, the iPad would facilitate entry while standing. Kind of difficult to use a mouse while standing in the middle of an exam room. Also the iPad UI was designed as the next step in computer human interaction and not designed for a mouse. Support for a bluetooth mouse may be hidden it the SDK, but then you would need to carry the iPad and the mouse with you. Not a Problem

Battery Life / Non-Changeable: 10 hours is longer than an 8 hour workday. Yes in the ED and the floors they work 12 hour shifts, but it will likely not be in continuous use. If docked into the keyboard it will get a chance to recharge. Plus I am not sure what the reported battery life on windows tablet PCs is. Not a Problem

Too Big: And the iPhone is too small. Almost nobody has handled an iPad, and certainly not for the full 10 hours. From the reports I have read, the lucky few that have fondled the iPad say it feel just right and not too big. Not a Problem

No Multitasking: Having multitasking will decrease battery life. This also help in the sand boxing of apps, which reduces the potential of malware (see later). Anyway shouldn’t the practitioner’s attention be focused on the patient and mot Farmville (sarcasm, no flash). Not a Problem

No Barcode Scanner: This could be a problem, depending on the EMR in use. A third party add on could fix this. Fixable Problem

Gloves Won’t Work: This could be a big problem. I know the iPhone screen will work with a screen protector, but I don’t know about surgical gloves. I don’t know everyone’s personal way of notation while with a patient, but I bet most take their gloves off to wright a note in the chart. You could use a Pogo stick (or other like device) while still with gloves on. Not a Problem

Separate Data Plan: This would app if you personally wanted to use an iPad and carry it from office to hospital and lacked WiFi coverage. I would think that most implementations would have an individual iPad as either an office or hospital device and not both. Thus it would stay use one or the others WiFi. Therefore, it may slow personal adaptation for medical use, but not office/hospital use. Not a Problem

Nut Rugged / Not Waterproof: Buy a case just like for you iPhone. Fixable Problem

Privacy/ Security Concerns: The iPad is based on the iPhone OS, and therefore will have the same remote wipe capabilities. The lack of multitasking helps. Sand boxing of each app helps, as does Apple’s control over app approval. Not a Problem

In support of the iPad’s adoption the following were listed.

Apple does good work: iPod, iPhone, and the Mac. I think we will all agree here.

Lots of medical apps: True

Cheaper than other medical tablets: Probably true.

User Friendly: True. Again likely all here agree.

X-ray review: I can see the Osirix iPhone app (or other DICOM app) now being useful on the iPad.

Making iPhone integration onto the hospital network easier: To me this is the most exciting. If the hospital IT department is supporting iPads then iPhones are a chip shot.

Conclusion: I am personally very excited about the integration of the iPad into the medical fields. Most of the concerns can be easily fixed with a third party add-on. A shock absorbing, damp proofing, battery pack case with a barcode scanner would take a consumer iPad into the hospital. I am sure Mophie or Griffin are already at work. I think the camera will need to wait for Apple to up date the iPad in the future. Right now I think the iPad would work well in most Mac oriented physician’s’ offices. Like most technologies, it’s not perfect, but a lot closer than most of the competition, just like the iPhone. It is funny how closely the criticism of the iPad correlates with what was said about the iPhone at its announcement.

Unfortunately, the major delay for use in the hospital will likely be our friends at the FDA.

As I linked to under the software forum, MacPractice has outlined their plans for including the iPad in their line up.