Healthcare Wants a Tablet, But Not Apple’s iPad | Survey Results


Market Analyst

Last week, during the fever pitch surrounding the announcement of Apple's iPad tablet, Software Advice surveyed 178 physicians, nurses, medical students and healthcare IT professionals about what iPad medical software would look like. This isn't our first time talking tablets and healthcare. In April of last year, we wondered if the Apple tablet would become the ideal device to run electronic health record (EHR) software.

Our goal with this survey: Find out what healthcare professionals want in a tablet and how well Apple's iPad fulfills those wants.

Let's see what we found out from our survey results:

Majority of Healthcare Professionals Are Likely to Buy a Tablet

Percentage of Doctors that Use an a Tablet for a Specific Task.

Healthcare workers want to use tablets for a wide variety of tasks. A majority of our respondents said they wanted to use a tablet for all of the above tasks except for billing, coding and claims.

Ease of Use and Software Selection are Top Reasons for Tablet Selection

Features in Tablets for Healthcare

  • "Shoehorning a desktop OS into a tablet does NOT work. This has been the approach of Microsoft and hence no uptake. A modal interface like the iPhone is more suitable to touchscreen use and makes more sense in this setting."
  • "Why use a new product when old ones are properly doing their jobs?"
  • "Lack of a streamlined, polished UI for task specific functions inclusive of each practitioner's duties."
  • "I have worked in ERs that have them and they never seem to work.  Low battery life? Unstable software? Limited functionality, too (not integrated with imaging)."

What are your thoughts on tablets in healthcare? Is the iPad the tablet healthcare workers have been waiting for? Or is it another tablet that just isn't quite there yet for the healthcare industry in terms of functionality?

Demographic breakdown:

  • Health IT Professional: 29% (52)
  • Physician: 28% (50)
  • Nurse: 16% (29)
  • Other: 14% (23)
  • Student: 12% (22)
  • Admin support: 1%  (2)
  • Cy Caine

    Interesting post Chris, especially since Epocrates issued a press release today announcing their own research findings: that 1 in 5 U.S. docs intend to purchase an iPad in its first year. Here is how I reconcile these two sets of findings:

    (1) iPad will be successful with consumers as a media-consumption device and this includes physicians as consumers

    (2) Physician-consumers will install healthcare applications such as Epocrates onto their devices because it will be both easy and inexpensive for them to do so

    (3) iPad will not be a major factor in healthcare at the point of care due to the deficiencies for this setting you detailed in your report.


    • Chris Thorman


      Agreed on all points. I enjoyed the write up on your blog too. Thanks for reading.

  • Andrew Cobourn

    I don’t see the logic in your verdict. If Healthcare likes the iPhone, wouldn’t it follow that Healthcare would like a bigger iPhone?

    • Chris Thorman

      @ Andrew

      I think doctors like the iPhone because (a) it’s a phone they can drop in their pocket and (b) it’s a quick and easy reference tool. I think the iPad has to offer more than the iPhone to justify doctors carrying them around. Right now, it doesn’t appear to offer that much more than an iPhone beyond a bigger screen.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Santino

    Most EMR apps run (or can run) under Citrix, not as native Windows apps. Citrix published apps can already run on the iPhone using Receiver. With VDI environments, the iPad could run any app desired. The environmental stuff is a factor, but certainly something a third-party see as an opportunity for add-on modifications. So, I think as-is the iPad isn’t attractive for healthcare, but the potential is certainly there.

  • martinX

    I think a few of the hardware concerns (dust resistance, able to be cleaned, even RFID reader) can be easily resolved by an outer case. This would keep the actual iPad cost down. Toughbook-type tablets already exist, but making them that specialized also makes them very expensive. And heavy.

    As for the software, it doesn’t matter if it runs on OS X or not. Any software will either have to run natively as an iPhone app, or the app will act as a front end to existing web-enabled hospital databases. I think the latter is more likely.

    Our IT department have experimented with tablet computers for years, but none has been rolled out yet. Having said that, I suspect the biggest obstacle to iPads in our organisation will be the MS-centric IT department(s) rather than any iPad specific concerns.

  • Scott Joing

    no, the ipad doesn’t have everything. but that doesn’t mean it will not help improve patient care. we are excited to try it out and I think it has potential

  • Charles Seager

    I think the Ipad’s use will be best as a thin client. I use a 3 pound Motion 1600 for our Nextgen EMR. It stays in Citrix mode all day. I use the iphone for epocrates and function as a pager. I will plan on purchasing the ipad to try and reduce weight and hope the batteries last those 10 hr day. The $500 cost allows purchase of several units against one $2k win tab. As long as I have server contact and a legible screen I don’t need hospital level sterility in the outpatient setting. Motion easily modified their tablet for hospital work and if Steve wants to….

  • David Pincock

    I had a few readers email me about the post I made based on this survey, they’re general opinion was “wait and see if it will be adopted for healthcare” but to me at the end of the day it is missing such essential components such as a USB port, a Microphone, and multitasking to even begin to fulfill the ever changing needs of doctors

  • chris Fleck

    Good stats and analysis. Regarding compatible EMR software its true that most of this is windows based. However most hospitals also run Citrix XenApp which can deliver windows app to any device with a Citrix Receiver, including the iPad.
    We have had significant interest in from healthcare providers and the IT pro’s that support them.
    Take a look at what they are saying regarding the iPad.

  • Michael De Jong

    Good report but…
    Software is a no brainer when it comes to most devices such as the iPad. It’s just a matter of allocating funds and resources to those who have the talent to create the right app and who can listen to the user’s requests. The iPad can fulfill the software needs of most industries.
    As for the hardware, the iPad was designed for the masses, not the medical fee in particular. If Apple was to add the “extras”, the initial price of these units would have been higher. The most important audience to introduce this new advanced tablet, is the general public, not healthcare professionals. Eventually there will be add ons by 3rd parties that will equip the iPad to fit that market. cameras, scanners, port covers, case….

  • Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson

    Could Apple bridge the software problem through ap development? Their strategy on aps has been very flexible and inviting for developers.

  • Donna Cusano

    The intro of the iPad fits the Apple model for the iPod and iPhone–hype it to the max, especially for specialized markets; rope in the faithful with an expensive, fragile and not quite ready v.1 to get the cash flowing; get the feedback for free (like we are doing)and 2 years later have a reliable, well priced and fully featured device.

    With virtual desktopping (Citrix, etc.) solving the app problem and a cover (if disinfectable) solving durability, look forward to a medical version in under 2 years.

  • Wilbert Warren

    My partners and I will soon transition to EMR. I eagerly awaited release of the Ipad, being that I am a fan of the Iphone and now use it with Epocrates and eprescribing. I was disappointed with the lack of features that distinguish it from a large Iphone. It is not a true tablet in the form it’s been introduced. The touchscreen feature is ideal and developers will hopefully create programs to make it more useful for physicians.

  • Tim Thigpen

    18 systems currently fall into the category of hand held & or hand carried cardiovascular ultrasound devices.

    Point of care ultrasound is rapidly growing and relying heavily on display technology and operating systems common to the computer industry, including Linux.

    Next on the horizon is a blending of all the wonderful things done on the EMR and E-script side of the equation with a point of care ultrasound device that adds value by improving the physical exam, triage and invasive procedures.

    We think it is imperative that the industry develop technology that frees physicians and health care workers from the QWERTY.

  • Alton Brantley

    This article is a mixture of data analysis and critique. On the data analysis part, it clearly shows that medical personnel want something light to hold, easy to use for the most common tasks, and with long battery life. In those categories, the iPad seems to be a match.

    The observation that it doesn’t run Windows and that it is thereby eliminated from consideration is a critique not borne out of the data. In fact, as a lightweight client with either Citrix (in the hospital setting) or Logmein,a VNC client with VPN capability (for the office setting), or any of the web-based (NOT Internet Explorer requiring) EMRs, this product has a better price/performance/fit profile than the bulkier, more expensive Windows tablets.

    Other concerns like infection control apply across the board to all of the machines and is almost always an “add-on” feature.

    In short, this product will either meet the need or influence the market to provide more of what clinical personnel need, both of which a “a good thing(TM).”

  • John Michael

    Interesting conversation, I am an Emerg Phy, Medhost has just been imposed on us, aside from the physician chart it seems like a pretty good product. Since it has built in Citrix and acts as a thin client (which we are using for Medhost), I would think an iPad would be a pretty ideal product. What I miss about not having a chart in hand, is I have no cue to go back and forth to at bedside as I see the patient.

    I do not believe the other items on the list are of any importance to me as a physician.

  • Kiljoy616

    Its not Doctors who hate the Ipad its IT who hates Ipad in hospitals. The Databases that run hospitals are old and very badly design, they work but are in no way considered user friendly.

    I can see doctors wanting the Ipad not some bloated Windows Clone but because of how the database in hospitals are designed they will not be getting them. Its bad enough how antiquated the technology is in most hospitals that I have worked in that I can’t see it arriving in the next 10 years.

    Hospitals are not in the for front of technology and the old guard had to die off before change comes. Clinics are the same, antiquated databases are what run most clinics and the Ipad is just too new.

  • yoshiaki matsuoka

    I do not agree with your claim. They need a big screen. The iPhone is too small….

  • Anthony Clark

    Instead of trying to change the iPad by running MS software via Citrix and changing the hardware with cases that don’t exist with RFID, Bar Code, etc etc….

    Why not just use one of the Windows tablets and combine it with a touch-friendly user interface?

  • Nigel Spier

    This could not be more off the mark. The iPad is going to be the tablet of choice for physicians. Most market research has demonstrated that the iPad is the first device to spark a surge in interest in adopting a paperless office solution, and now every EMR vendor is scrambling to get an iPad solution for their software. This article seems to have a very narrow focus and is the typical kind of stuff we have seen from a windows-centric world. Microsoft has tried too long to make the healthcare market fit it’s mold and like most other things it has tried to do in it’s heavy handed manner, it has been roundly rejected.

    The iPad will spur a whole new generation of EMR software from vendors that “get it”. Most of the arguments you present are in fact true for all the other tablets as well. And as far as having sealed ports, there is only one vendor out there that sells a product like that and its big, and clunky. Most iPad adopters looking for this kind of protection will find it in any number of cases that are out there for the iPad.

    I am part of a large group of physicians and the iPad is for the first time sparking interest in even our older physicians to adopting EMR. There are in fact native solutions that Apple has helped developers with for the iPad that are already head an shoulders above anything else ever produced for a tablet. Face it, Apple, as usual, is leap frogging the industry and the iPad will leave others in the dust.

  • Dwayne

    This blog opinion was written prematurely. Healthcare providers are salivating for ipads these days.

  • jhill

    As an EMT, the iPad, given the right software, could be a huge help in the field for write ups, med references, language translation, text to speech, etc.

  • Rak

    In the near future possibly there will be some devices similar to the IPad which fit the requirements of the healthcare sector better than the Ipad now!

  • Pingback: Healthcare Apps for the iPad | That iPod I WANT!

  • Donavon Lewis

    I have to disagree with a few of the components that are lacking. Im not much of an Apple person myself, but I do know that programs like SHopSavy for the iPhone that uses the camera technology to read barcodes could be a solution for the lacking external barcode scanner. Also, we have been able to use the citrix client for web access to run most all applications that PCs have to run and that require Windows Server OS. The problem in IT (we/Me) is that supporting the devices and the fact that the user WILL have to zoom in and out of an app designed for a mouse and keyboard, not touch screen apps found nativly on the iwhatever and app store. I worked for a medical charting software company and our biggest problem was just keeping our product working let alone for an apple sdk (program to make apple software). Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the research. Very helpfull ;) 

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