Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will Apple's iPad save EMRs and Healthcare?

Apple is about to launch their new device - the iPad or iSlate or something similarly named. Since it is supposed to be the miracle cure for so many things - how about healthcare?

Assuming they have created a cheap, lightweight device that has high speed connectivity and allows for easy data entry similar to an iPhone (type, touch, voice)... how could a physician use this in their clinic workflow... how would an EMR optimized for this product work?

It might make sense to have "apps" for different workflows. In the exam room, a physician would want an app that displays the relevant data for a patient, and allows for easy documentation and ordering. Of course, we want that now with our big PCs...and are usually somewhat disappointed as no EMR is perfect at this point. So is there anything that makes the iPad concept better for doctors?

Carrying around a "pad" is most similar to paper and thus doctors will accept it more - right? Well, so far that philosophy has usually not worked in a busy office setting. The previous "pads" (e.g. handheld tablets) have been too heavy and bulky, too expensive and the battery life too short. Additionally, data entry has been limited to touch pen. The new iPad would likely be better in all categories... and so I could see it being used for data retrieval, some ordering, and possibly some basic documentation - although I think the majority of documentation would likely be voice (e.g. Dragon voice recognition).

Overall, this might make the most sense in the inpatient setting where there is a lot of movement and a big limiting factor has been not enough computers for all the rooms... or the COWs are too bulky to move around easily. We have already seen many EMR vendors come out with iPhone apps... so there is even some software to start using in these situations.

In the outpatient setting, where one doctor usually works consistently in 2-4 rooms, I think having a regular PC type device (or net device) with a large monitor and keyboard still makes the most sense for now. And even when voice recognition improves, this set up will still likely be easier and cheaper for this more controlled situation.

Of course, since EMR adoption is low now... any new technology that provides for the ability to innovate is welcome with open arms - and I am very much looking forward to see if this is going to be closer to the Newton or the iPhone in it's success.