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.