11 stages of the iPad's history in healthcare

By Michelle McNickle
01:05 PM
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The release of the "new iPad," aka the iPad 3, on March 16th, has health IT folks drooling over the tool's increased screen resolution, its iSight camera – complete with full HD 1080p video recording capabilities – and its voice dictation features. 

"I think it’s no secret that the healthcare industry right now is, to some degree, in love with this tablet," said Jennifer Dennard, social marketing director at Billan's HealthDATA/Porter Research/HITR.com. "Sure, there are the naysayers, but at least half the conversations I had at HIMSS with EMR vendors and HIT folks included at least one mention of 'Apple' or 'iPad.'" 

The past year has been eventful for the tech giant, which lost Chairman Steve Jobs to cancer in October 2011, just days before the public release of its iCloud solution for cloud computing. In anticipation of the release of the third-generation iPad, we look back through the device's history in healthcare and the ways physicians, patients, and IT professionals have used it. 

Here are 10 stages of the iPad's brief history in healthcare. 

1. January 2010. In this blog post, authored more than two years ago by BIDMC CIO John Halamka, the iPad's ability to revolutionize the industry was brought into question. According to him, the iPad did come the closest to his predetermined set of requirements for the "ideal clinical device," however, Halamka wrote the device was too large, could be hard to disinfect, and lacked a camera for clinical photography and/or video teleconferencing. "My general impression is that it's not perfect for healthcare, but it is closer than other devices I've tried," he wrote. "It will definitely be worth a pilot.

2. February 2010. In this article, Healthcare IT News Community Editor Kyle Hardy explored the iPhone's influence on the industry, writing how the introduction of a medical checklist for the iPhone could become a benefit for providers as mobile technology in healthcare continues to increase. While Hardy focused primarily on the mobile phone, Peter Waegemann, vice president of development for the mHealth Initiative, predicted the iPad could become the next big thing for doctors. "The iPad will open up a new dimension for doctors as it will become the working tool at the point of care," he said. 

[See also: iPad 2 a boon to Weill Cornell Medical College students.]

3. April 2010. Nearly two months later, John Moore from Chilmark Research questioned whether the iPad will truly be a "game changer" in healthcare, citing its "rich user interface, native support for eReading, strong graphics (color) capabilities, [and its] ability to use various medical calculators." Calling the device a "slam-dunk for Apple," Moore later questioned if it had the staying power to replace the smartphone. "Only time will tell," he wrote. "Could we even go so far as to say that the iPad will be a bigger contributor to HIT adoption and use than the $40B in ARRA funding that the feds will spend over the next several years as part of the HITECH Act?" 

4. June 2010. In the June 2010 print issue of Healthcare IT News, Associate Editor Molly Merrill reported that many were expecting the iPad to quickly surpass other tools and become the leader in health information technology. "The iPad is going to crush laptops in this [healthcare] space," said Connecticut physician Steven A.R. Murphy, MD. Steve Woodruff, founder and president of Impactiviti, believed the iPad could grow into the platform that accelerates eHealthcare on the provider side. "It's not so much that the iPad is a game changer in and of itself – it should be an accelerator of trends that are already happening, and inevitable," Woodruff said. 

5. December 2010. In this article by Merrill, the iPad's use had officially expanded into the OR, while providing a "convenient way to easily access previous patient imaging." Its new role was documented in an article published in the Journal of Surgical Radiology, which told how Georgetown surgeons were using the iPad to access, in real time, patient X-rays, CT scans, and laboratory data during surgical procedures. "The same features which make the iPad great for surfing the web, such as looking at images and viewing video, nicely translate into the operating room," said Felasfa M Wodajo, MD, senior editor at iMedicalApps.com. 

Continued on the next page. 

6. March 2011. The iPad 2 was released in March of last year, and according to this article by Merrill, the tool was looking even better for doctors and health professionals. BIDMC CIO John Halamka was part of a video, released by Apple, highlighting the tool's use in healthcare. "What we have tried to do on the iPad is give doctors at the point of care the tools they need at the exact moment the doctor can make a difference," he said in the video. Apple CEO Steve Jobs was quoted as saying the iPad had "defined an entirely new category of mobile devices. While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we're launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition. ..."

7. April 2011. Senior Editor Patty Enrado explored the iPad's ability to drive EHR adoption in this blog post back in April of last year. "An estimated 22 percent of U.S. physicians were using iPads by the end of 2010... in a February 2011 survey by [Aptilon], four out of five physicians said they plan to buy an iPad this year," she wrote. According to Enrado, both patients and physicians understand the power and convenience of EHRs when they see how seamlessly the iPad enters data and pulls up information when synched with an EHR system. "And once developers create clinical apps for the iPad, expect an even greater adoption and adoration," she wrote. 

[See also: iPad EHR gets certified...what next?.]

8. July 2011. In July of last year, the first iPad EHR gained meaningful use certification, reported Managing Editor Mike Miliard. "Drchrono, which offers a free electronic health record platform on the iPad, has received ONC-ACTB certification," he wrote. Features included in the drchrono iPad included real time clinical speech-to-text on the iPad, custom workflows, and integrated electronic medical billing. "[T]he iPad is a natural fit in the medical space," said Daniel Kivatinos, cofounder and COO of drchrono. "It was a thrilling experience to be the first company to use an iPad during the meaningful use certification process."  

9. February 2012. mHIMSS editor Eric Wicklund, in this article from this past month, looked to a survey from Spyglass Consulting, which concluded that, although 98 percent of physicians are using mobile devices, still 83 percent are using desktop computers as their primary way of accessing information. So where does the iPad come into play? "The study indicated 80 percent of physicians surveyed believe the iPad shows promise for healthcare, but at present, it can only be used as a communications platform," Wicklund wrote. "The iPad represents only one component of an overall end-to-end clinical solution," said Gregg Malkary, managing director at Spyglass Consulting. "Significant software innovation will be required to realize the vision for anytime, anywhere clinical computing." 

10. February 2012.  Also last month, Dennard asked in this blog post whether the tool eventually won't live up to all the attention it's received. "Whether it's design-oriented, security concerns, or a Windows bias, everyone has an opinion on this popular product," she wrote. "Does the iPad have what it takes to become a healthcare game changer? Or is its dirty little secret that it won't ultimately live up to the hype?" 

11. March 2012. Yesterday, iMedicalApps.com documented five reasons the iPad 3 is bound to help physicians. The primary update, they wrote, will be a new, high resolution "retina display," which has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 and is "sure to appeal to a wider medical community." Overall, the article concluded, "today's announcements cement Apple's position as the leader in the tablet market, and thus iOS for medical software." 

Are you using an iPad in the clinical setting? Leave your comments below.

Follow Michelle McNickle on Twitter, @Michelle_writes