New Apple Developments will Likely Spur Mobile Health Innovation

By Jennifer Dennard
02:11 PM
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If you’re reading this blog, you most likely saw the pop-up/interstitial Intel ad that asks “Is Cloud Computing Right for You?” Steve Jobs apparently thinks so. The Apple impresario announced the company’s most talked-about offering, iCloud, at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, among a number of other new developments that have stirred Apple fans to new heights of evangelism. Mashable.com staffers have been keeping up with conference developments and announcements pretty well.

If you’re reading this blog, you most likely saw the pop-up/interstitial Intel ad that asks “Is Cloud Computing Right for You?” Steve Jobs apparently thinks so. The Apple impresario announced the company’s most talked-about offering, iCloud, at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week, among a number of other new developments that have stirred Apple fans to new heights of evangelism. Mashable.com staffers have been keeping up with conference developments and announcements pretty well. Based on their reports and my own interpretation, it seems the majority of Apple’s latest technologies will – should our industry so choose to accept this mission - spur healthcare IT innovation in one way or another.

Though I, unfortunately, don’t have any Apple stock to bet, I’d wager that mobile health will see the biggest benefits as these technologies trickle down from developers to consumers. Here are my thoughts on what’s been announced (and rumored) so far:

1. iCloud
In a very small nutshell, iCloud is Apple’s new cloud computing service, which enables users to store content wirelessly, and pushes that content to all Apple devices, regardless of which one content was initially downloaded to. Signing up for the service gets you 5gb of free storage.

Implications for Healthcare: Perhaps making the cloud “cool” will lessen any remaining hesitation providers have about storing sensitive data in the cloud – no matter the vendor. This, of course, is barring any unforeseen hiccups such as recently experienced by Amazon.

I’m not sure how far-reaching the downloading-to-all-Apple-devices feature is, but with providers’ increasing use of iPads, it seems this might be very valuable in mobile health/telehealth settings, especially when it comes to sharing medical images.

2. Rumors of Embedded Speech-Recognition Technology
While not specifically addressed at the conference, rumors have run rampant lately that Apple will incorporate Siri and Nuance speech-recognition technology into its new operating system. According to Mashable, this could “transform the iPhone from a mobile computer to a smart device with the capability of assisting you in almost any situation.”

Implications for Healthcare: If this technology comes to light and is actually reliable, I wouldn’t be surprised if doctors and emergency medical personnel take advantage of this in some way. If developed as an app specifically for healthcare, this could have great potential in emergency situations such as what we’ve seen in Joplin, Missouri.

3. Universal Remote Computer Access
As Mashable describes it, “Imagine being able to open up any MacBook in the world, typing in your Apple account credentials and suddenly being presented with your desktop, apps and all.”

Implications for Healthcare: Again, mobile health folks will probably take this and run with it, developing solutions for accessing health information from any EMR or HIE, and other healthcare IT systems on the go.

4. Wireless Syncing
In conjunction with iCloud and its new operating system, Apple will offer new users the ability to activate their devices without a computer, and the iPhone, iPad and iPod will be able to sync with iTunes using Wi-Fi.

Implications for Healthcare: It will make everyone’s lives easier. I imagine there have been several doctors frustrated by the need to hook up their iPad in the middle of rounds in order to download the latest updates (not to mention accept the fun 62-page update agreements).

I’m also willing to bet that this will save providers money in the long run. Less wires, and who knows, maybe even less PCs eventually.

5. Deeper Twitter Integration
Twitter will be embedded in the new operating system. As the L.A. Times reports, “Users will be able to sign into their Twitter accounts once, and all Twitter-enabled apps will respond - eliminating the need to enter a username and password for each individual app.

“The single sign-on feature then will enable iOS 5 users to post directly to Twitter from built-in iOS apps such as Photos and Camera, Safari (for tweeting links to websites), YouTube (for tweeting videos) and Maps (for tweeting locations). And Apple has made APIs available so third-party developers can take advantage of the single sign-on feature for their own apps.”

Implications for Healthcare: It’s this last statement that has me truly excited about the potential for innovation in the clinical social networking space. I came across a few social networking tools developed specifically for clinicians at this year’s HIMSS. I assume that this single sign-on feature could be of great use to these types of products.

But what about security? This will probably be providers’ biggest concern when it comes to adopting these new tools and techniques, and developing them further for healthcare purposes. If there’s one thing I do know, the world of healthcare never seems to be short of big ideas, so I imagine this hurdle will eventually be overcome.

How do you think these developments will spur innovation? Or do you think they just aren’t a good fit for the clinical setting? Please share your thoughts below.

 

Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research.