Apple iPad in Healthcare: Pros and Cons

I’m not really an Apple fan, but I’m always open to innovations in healthcare. Last week was centered around iPad both in the news and the blogosphere as more and more bloggers started to describe its potential role in healthcare. It’s obvious now that healthcare will go through some major changes in the next few years due to EMRs (electronic medical records) and PHRs (personal health records). Though Boston has already gone through this.

Tablet solutions have a clear future (pdf) but as Apple tablet representatives were spotted at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center a few weeks ago, it seems iPad might have a shot in healthcare as well. Let’s see what can happen.

Possible cons from the healthcare aspect:

  • No camera: it means it cannot be used in telemedicine
  • No flash: several medical websites use Flash
  • No mouse support: it’s not a disadvantage if there won’t be click-heavy applications
  • Battery life: It is somewhere around 10 hours which is enough for a doctor working on the hospital but what happens when the iPad gets handed off to the next person? Dying battery can be swapped out for a fresh one in other tablet solutions. Here there won’t be enough time to re-charge iPads.
  • It’s too big to fit into a doctor’s pocket.
  • iPad is not ruggedized while other healthcare tablets are drop resistant from about a meter.
  • No Multi-tasking: it makes it impossible to write a patient report while consulting with a collegue (there are hundreds of examples why multi-tasking is crucial)
  • No barcode scanner: it’s used for checking and uploading drugs, among others.
  • Such a device should be water-proof and easily disinfected. iPad wasn’t designed for this.
  • The iPad has a capacitive touch screen on which gloves won’t work.

Possible pros:

  • If there is a company that can get the best out of such a device, that is Apple.
  • Probably there will be more and more medical applications designed exclusively for iPad just like there are so many medical apps for iPhone.
  • It’s cheaper than other healthcare tablets.
  • It was designed to be as user-friendly as possible (a nice advantage of Apple products) so elderly people will also be able to learn to use it easily.
  • One scenario might be having an iPad in the hospital as the central database where doctors can upload the information from the iPhones.

If I miss anything, please let me know so I can improve the list.

I think iPad has the potential to become the No.1 healthcare tablet, but it has to go through plenty of changes and innovations in order to become a serious competitor in this race.