Along with millions of Apple converts, I have been following the announcement of the new Apple iPad at a live event in San Francisco. I have been tracking ABC News’ Joanna Stern via her live blog of the event. The majority of the announcements have been focused on the iPad’s enhanced processing power, the 2048 x 1536 resolution retina display, 10-hour battery life, higher resolution camera, and high-speed 4G LTE connectivity. Healthcare is likely to be a major benefactor of these features. Here is how I see the new iPad being adopted by clinicians.
- The higher resolution and faster processing speed of the new iPad will drive a wide range of uses in healthcare. In addition to functioning as inexpensive devices providing quick access to information at the patient’s bedside (Ottawa Hospital goes Digital), the ability to view medical images such as diagnostic investigations (MRIs, CT scans, etc.) with sufficient resolution to make diagnostic decisions is likely to spur another round of purchasing by radiologists and other diagnostic specialties.
- Data input is still a challenge in EMRs, particularly if limited to drop-down lists and menus. However, the benefit of being able to run an EMR on an iPad or a tablet form factor in conjunction with a 10-hour battery life makes it a very good alternative to the traditional paper chart. Even if not used as a full-fledged version of an EMR (the version a doctor may use in the examination room), iPad (or tablet) versions of the EMR could function very well as information viewers or information capture devices, particularly if they integrate speech recognition software. I could see specialties such as dermatology or plastic surgery using an iPad to document skin lesions or pre- and post-surgical status with capabilities to quickly integrate the images into the EMR without a separate (and time consuming) tagging process.
- The benefit of built-in 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile network connectivity provides the dual-redundancy that practices have been looking for with cloud-based EMRs in which the data and applications are accessed using an Internet connection. Let me explain further. One of the challenges faced by EMRs that operate over an Internet connection is the risk of the broadband connection going down for a period of time. In a situation where a single Internet connection is the only way to connect to the database, this could be very challenging for a practice. As a result, expensive workarounds have included installing a second Internet connection as back-up in case the first goes down. In an ideal situation, one would never have to take advantage of this dual-redundancy; however, it is designed to work in the event of an unexpected failure. With 4G LTE enabled iPads, if they functioned using the practice’s standard wireless Internet connection and that connection went down, the iPad could simply switch over the 4G LTE network, which should provide sufficient speed to enable a seamless user experience. The likelihood of both a land-based Internet connection and a wireless 4G LTE network going down simultaneously is very small.
- Finally, what I wanted to hear today (but did not) was the announcement of a smaller form factor for the iPad in addition to the standard 9.7 inch version. Something that could fit easily into a doctor’s white coat pocket. Seven inches would probably be ideal. Even though Apple did not announce the 7-inch version today, I hope that this version is in the works, as it would be an ideal compromise between the iPhone and the current iPad. We can only wait and hope!
What are your thoughts about uses in healthcare for the new iPad? Add your ideas and feedback by clicking on the “Comments” link below.