Physicians Say iPad Not Ready For Clinical Computing

Posted on February 16, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Doctors love them, but don’t think the iPad is ready to play a major role in clinical practice, as Apple hasn’t done enough to optimize it for healthcare, according to a new study by Spyglass Consulting Group.

According to a new report by Spyglass,  doctors don’t feel the iPad is ready to have an impact on care delivery. While 80 percent of physicians responding predicted that the iPad will have a positive impact on future care, it’s just not ready today, they said. (Most doctors I’ve talked with agree, noting that while it’s great for reading data, it’s extremely difficult to use for data entry.)

We’re not at all surprised to hear this given some of the iPad horror stories traveling around. For example, when Seattle Children’s Hospital pilot-tested iPads for its doctors, the result was a complete flop. Doctors there complained that that it was just too awkward to enter data into the otherwise sexy device. Shortly thereafter, IT switched its plans and rolled out a zero-client set-up.

So, what will it take to make the iPad clinically useful? To be successful in healthcare, Apple and its partners need to rewrite and optimize clinical apps to include gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and even video conferencing, Spyglass research concludes.

I’d add that EMR/EHR vendors need to create native front ends for the iPad; given its penetration among doctors, I’m baffled by vendors who demand that doctors use their system via Citrix or the Web.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Epic’s Canto, few vendors offer a fully-fledged iPad app as a front end to their system. (One of few examples of a native iPad app from a smaller EMR vendor comes from Dr. Chrono, which, perhaps not so coincidentally, just got $2.8 million in venture funding.)

What’s more, Apple will have to do something about iOS security. It’s little wonder that 75  percent of doctors said that hospital IT departments weren’t eager to support mobile devices on corporate networks. While any device exposes networks to additional threats, Apple seems to have some particularly difficult problems, especially where its Safari browser is concerned.

Like the doctors surveyed by Spyglass, I have little doubt that iPads will end up assuming an important role in healthcare.  But given the snail’s pace at which native iPad apps are being launched, it may be a long time before that happens.