What happens when the iPad storm blows over?

By Molly Merrill
03:33 PM

“The iPad has taken the world by storm,” said Kathy Owen, RN, MS, a nursing informatics documentation consultant at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Almost every informaticist she knows has one. And while she sees it being beneficial in some areas, such as the OR, it's not one that could be used for tasks such as barcode scanning.

Right now, Owen says, the iPad will most benefit the private practice. Her reasoning is that a doctor in a small physician office has to manage less data – and more simple data – compared to what nurses manage at a hospital.

For example, she said Children’s sees acute patients that might stay for weeks or even months. Nurses are using netbooks, and for the 270-bed hospital to make the switch to another device would be a sizable project, said Owen – adding that the hospital would like to see the technology progress further before making such an investment.

She believes the iPad, and technologies like it, are very much in their infancy. “The next generation iPad is going to be more suited to healthcare,” she said.

The iPad’s point-of-care applications make it attractive to doctors – and that’s helping accelerate its deployment, according to a survey of nearly 950 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) members, 15 percent of whom are executive-level employees or physicians. The survey found that more than 25 percent of respondents plan to deploy the iPad and other iOS devices immediately, and that nearly 70 percent plan to deploy such devices within the next year.

The numbers reflected in the survey are a bit high, said Steve Bedell, network engineer for Yarmouth, Maine-based Network Knowledge, but he believes they are indicative of what adoption might look like after the iPad 2 is released, which could be sometime this year.

"There are a lot of point-of-care apps, as well as many developers that are trying to find their niche in development. I think this specific healthcare application is prime for an iPad or other comparable device, and there are many out there," he said.

These types of devices address issues of size because laptops are too cumbersome for doctors to carry around, Bedell said.

Jeff Brandt, CIO and CTO at Communication Software, a Portland, Ore.-based mHealth consulting firm, believes there's a place for the iPad in the healthcare industry – and in particular for doctors – because of its simplicity. But he cautioned that users should be careful of solutions that lock them into one vendor.”

“We need solutions that do not inhibit data sharing,” he said. He believes that “apps linked to a single OS are soon to be displaced by the cloud.” He predicts that this will happen within the next five years.

The Google Chrome Operating System – something Brandt calls “a new twist on an old idea” – could represent the future for healthcare, he said.

Chrome OS is an open-source, lightweight operating system that is designed to run Web applications. Google is piloting the system by giving users Cr-48 notebooks, but there has yet to be a device available to the public. Chrome OS stores apps, documents and settings in the cloud. By logging onto a device, a user can have access to all of their apps, bookmarks and other browser settings.

Brandt feels Chrome OS is ideal for the healthcare industry, where multiple users will be able to use the same device, cutting down the amount of hardware a healthcare organization has to support.

“Chrome OS will be a leading solution for mobile devices for size and speed,” predicted Brandt.