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Apple's New iPad: Does the Hype Extend to Healthcare?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, January 28, 2010

The high-tech frenzy over Apple's new tablet computer, the iPad, includes the specter of improved healthcare efficiency, with the prospect of doctors dashing off memos with their fingertips, while saying goodbye to patient charts filled with illegible handwriting.

"Anything that could take doctor's time away from administrative duties, I imagine there would be a benefit," says Matt Fenwick, spokesman for the American Hospital Association, when asked about Apple's new tablet that was announced Wednesday.  "I would imagine that would be significant improvements."

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, launched the iPad amid much fanfare. The iPad is thinner and lighter than any laptop or notebook, and works by multi-touch like an iPhone, but has a much larger screen and is capable of handling thousands of applications. It weighs about 1.5 pounds, and has a 9.7-inch display with a battery life of 10 hours.

Although Apple has pegged e-book applications and games at the top of likely users, the blog world has forecast the iPad for the healthcare industry.

Before the product launch, Jason Wilk, who runs the tinyComb site specializing in technical news, reported that Apple is targeting the potential of the heathcare industry and offers a cheaper alternative than an existing communication devices used in healthcare settings. For instance, the Apple tablet would cost about $1,000 compared to the $2,199 retail price for the Motion Computing C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant platform i9s, which has been designed for the healthcare industry, he wrote.

"iPhone has already served as a great platform for medical applications. The problem with the iPhone is that it is too small to handle all of this data, not from a processor standpoint, but just overall screen size," Wilk wrote. "The tablet can pave a whole new way for medical applications and the way we interact with our doctors."

"You can certainly bet the iPhone will interact very well with the tablet, so syncing information back and forth with your doctor via both devices should be a breeze," Wilk added.

Other experts say the new technology could bring about change in healthcare. But Fenwick hesitated to discuss possible medical impact of the new iPad, One of the concerns in using an iPad or any other computer system in hospitals involves "electronic health records and very sensitive information," Fenwick says. "Security is a high priority."

Other healthcare groups also aren't sure.

"It seems too soon for groups to know if/how this may help in [the medical] group setting," says Kris Deutschman, spokeswoman for the California Association of Physician Groups, referring to the iPad. "There are many groups investing [in technology] to better manage patient care but this hasn't hit their radar yet."


Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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