iPad Mania in Healthcare May Be Exaggerated

Posted on April 13, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

In all my years writing about healthcare and technology, I’ve never seen such a storm of enthusiasm over a new medical device.  If the newspaper and blog coverage is any indication, we have no less than a moral duty to give an iPad to every practicing physician, stocked with a variety of the coolest medical apps.

In fact, Apple itself has jumped on the bandwagon, with its most recent iPad2 commercials displaying medical apps.

This, of course, has serious implications for EMR developers.  If the iPad is eclipsing even the desktop and smartphone as a primary means of accessing medical information, their focus will have to shift from a traditional client-server model — and perhaps even existing SaaS options — to one which is more modularized.  Their assumptions  about users’ interaction with their interface will need to be different as well.

The thing is, despite all of this discussion, I’ve seen no stats to back up the notion that even tech-friendly doctors see iPads as indispensable.

Where the iPhone (or at least smartphones generally) are concerned, sure, there seems to be plenty of research documenting that most physicians rely on them. But while there’s lots of anecdotes circulating about the iPad’s central future in medicine, none of the research firms covering the healthcare industry seem to have documented this trend.

What’s more, as a consumer whose family sees a lot of specialists — a few of us have chronic illnesses — I’ve never seen an iPad in anyone’s hands.  Walk into a coffee shop in the prosperous D.C. metro suburbs where I live, and sure, at least one consumer will have one.  But in DC medical offices, not so much.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if I were a product manager with an EMR vendor, I’d create an iPad interface and trumpet its existence to the world — it makes marketing sense if nothing else. One vendor which has already taken this tack is DrChrono, which prominently advertises the iPad version of its free EMR.

Regardless, I’m still waiting to see more evidence that the buzz around the medical iPad is more than just the expertly-crafted legends Apple creates around its products.  (Should we sense some Pixar magic here?) Anyway, just because everyone says something’s cool doesn’t mean it is.  I mean, we learned that in high school, didn’t we?