Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Future of Healthcare Runs on an iPad

The iPad has taken the healthcare industry by storm. In only 20 months since its launch, it has spread virally throughout clinics and hospitals in the US as well as around the world.

In fact, Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple recently stated “over 80 percent of the top hospitals in the US are now testing or piloting iPad.” Other studies have shown that over a third of US doctors have fully implemented the iPad with another third are very close behind. These are impressive numbers for an industry known to be a laggard when it comes to technology.

With over 300 EMR companies scrambling to build mobile versions of their software as well as stimulus from governments around the world, this trend will undoubtedly continue. In the US, a free EMR app (native to the iPad) was recently certified for “Meaningful Use” allowing doctors who store and track patient data access to $44,000 in federal incentives.

EMR adoption still faces numerous challenges around the world including patient privacy, data security, resistance to change as well as cost of initial conversion of records. Recent versions of the iPad have delivered improved security such as more robust password handling and remote wipe. This has allowed Integrators to support the device in full HIPAA and HITECH compliant projects.

Experts are recommending an optimal security solution that is server based architecture with the iPad as a dumb terminal. Ensuring that the wireless access is securely encrypted and protected and patient records do not reside anywhere but on the server. Over time this will transition to the cloud, but major organizations are still building back-office infrastructure for compliance purposes.

iPads are also being used in other creative places in healthcare. For patients, they can act as a source of entertainment or distraction, providing a way for those who are bed-bound to browse the web, engage in social media, play games or watch a movie comfortably and privately. Doctors can use them to consult more easily while out of office as patient records are more convenient and accessible. Doctors are also using them as bedside education tools as well as registration and self-triage.

Integrators in the AV industry already have numerous solutions built on the iPad and these can now be ported into the healthcare industry. With over a million of these devices in healthcare organizations already, now is the time to deploy solutions that can make patient care more effective and productive.

Popular solutions include panels in the clinic room (projecting from the iPad) to self-service kiosks for registration and self-triage. The opportunities are endless for driving better patient outcomes as well as lowering the cost of providing healthcare. There is now a dedicated healthcare App store on iTunes that is quietly attracting thousands of developers.

Another trend following iPad adoption in healthcare is the increased use of smartphones. A recent study looking at doctors and residents found that 85% owned a smartphone and 56% of them reported using it in clinical practice. Age played a major factor with 70% of residents using their smartphone clinically, while only 39% of doctors practicing for more than 15 years reported the same.

For both iPads and smartphones, there is a significant difference between healthcare specialties. For example, only 52% of younger surgeons reported using their smartphone clinically, despite an ownership rate of 98%.

Integrators in the healthcare industry can expect the trend of consumerization to accelerate into the future. Healthcare professionals will continue to demand greater levels of integration with all of the technology in the environment, from medical devices and equipment, printers, scanners, computers and AV equipment.

This is an opportunity for Integrators to drive solutions that include a unique packaging of hardware, software and services.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bring Your Own Device & Apps: The Consumerization of Healthcare Is Happening Now

If you haven’t been following the debate on BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – you soon will.  The debate was fueled by the rapid and surprising success of $300 Netbooks four years ago. IT providers as well as AV integrators were successful, for the most part, in keeping those consumer devices off the corporate network due to lack of security, manageability and weak horsepower.

Fast forward four years and the healthcare environment is changing significantly. Connectivity is moving towards ubiquity, the cloud business model is real and the tablet was released in 2009 that forever changed the hardware landscape.

The tablet market is growing at a dizzying pace. Gartner is calling for 294 million units worldwide within four years, while Forrester is expecting 82 Million of them in the U.S. alone by 2015.  Apple commands almost 90% share, but more than 125 other tablets have come to market by mid-2011.  In fact, recent studies have shown a quarter of all physicians in the US already using the iPad, with a commanding 79% preferring that over other tablet brands.

Some of the early limitations of tablets, like the Netbooks before them, included lack of security, manageability and compatibility.  Newer devices have improved and now offer PKI authentication certificates, biometrics and remote wipe capabilities making them acceptable to many health organizations.  One lesser known limitation is if the device is subject to a legal hold – the health organization is in a legal dispute of some kind – the end user will lose the device for an extended and unpredictable amount of time.

The story isn’t just about integrating and managing secondary and tertiary devices from the consumer market.  Industry experts as well as futurists are calling for more devices, perhaps dozens per individual, gaining access to each medical office.

What is BYOA?

The consumerization of IT isn’t just about hardware – we are at the beginning of another interesting trend:  BYOA – Bring Your Own App.  Some have predicted that the explosion of over 1 million apps may spell the end of the traditional desktop internet.  While that is likely premature, apps could provide some real advantages in the healthcare industry including cutting down on training time, allowing health professionals to feel more invested, and replacing costly software licensing with cheaper apps.

However, there are several issues with BOA including:
  • ·         Compliance and regulations with regards to HIPAA, HITECH and others
  • ·         Security of the data on public clouds and intermixing with consumer data
  • ·         Portability of the output – getting the data back if something happens to company
  • ·         Information fragmentation – decentralized data across hundreds of data centers and apps

We are already seeing examples where corporate communication has been fragmented into public clouds including personal email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and a growing number of other social media tools.  As other app categories get more popular, such as practice management, human resources and expense reporting, integrators and IT personnel will be challenged with supporting this rapidly growing ecosystem.

It is an opportunity

IT and AV professionals will be crucial in managing this complexity of dozens of devices and perhaps hundreds of apps per person.  The necessity to collect and securely display the output of these applications pervasively throughout the health environment will be critical.  New services and practices will evolve that focus on enhanced security layers, compliance, data organization, data protection and vendor management in this increasingly fragmented world.  New revenue models will also evolve including micropayments by device and app – in many cases, pennies per month per individual.

To be effective in managing this potential chaos and, more importantly, profiting from it, integrators will need to have built a solid business foundation with predictable and repeatable business workflows.  Without “off the shelf” solutions, the level of complexity as well as the new micro-financial model could add significant risk.