Adoption of the iPad is Transforming the Healthcare Landscape


Creative Director of Marketing, HealthFusion

A couple years ago, I was referred to a specialist by my family physician. When I visited the specialist, I noticed he was using an electronic health record (EHR) on a desktop computer in the examination room. Throughout the entire visit the specialist stared at the computer screen, not even glancing up when I inquired about my ailment.

On a follow-up visit to my family physician I told him about the impersonal experience and asked why he had yet to digitize his patient health records. He explained that he did not want to jeopardize the relationships he had worked so hard to build over the years and generations. My family doctor went on to explain how the lack of mobility, cumbersome nature and slow speeds of current EHR systems and computing hardware put a barrier between him and the patient. It was a barrier he was afraid would erode the doctor-patient relationship, making him just as impersonal as the specialist.

A Case for Making the Move to iPad and EHRs

Recently I returned to my family physician for a routine exam, and noticed that he was now using EHRs on an iPad2. I was surprised that my doctor of many years, seemingly set in his ways, decided to adopt an ambulatory EHR and iPad tablet technology. Curious as to this move, I quizzed him and he explained that the iPad was the ideal mobile computing hardware solution for which he had been waiting. He said the iPad allows him to maintain eye contact, keeping the all-important doctor-patient bond intact, while letting his fingers do the charting. He went on to explain the iPad’s dizzying number of advantages over its cumbersome, stationary predecessors:

  • Portability – The iPad is lighter and thinner than even the smallest laptops, allowing it to be held in one hand – allowing for eye contact to maintain personal relationship with your patient.
  • Connectivity – Connect anywhere there is Internet, either through Wi-Fi or a cellular provider.
  • Extended battery life – The average battery life of an iPad is about 10 hours on a full charge; long enough for an entire day’s patient flow.
  • Rear-facing camera – Now, you can take pictures on the iPad and send those pictures via email, and even to a patient chart with EHRs like MediTouch. The pictures are of a high enough quality, that they can be used for documentation of medical conditions (such as a rash or laceration).
  • Ability to draw – Capture images and draw right on them, using your finger to highlight a certain area or condition.

While advice from my family physician has always been good enough for me, there is plenty of independent research to back up my doctor’s points. In fact, according to an article in the AMA News, “One year after Apple launched its first iPad tablet computer, 27 percent of primary care and specialty physicians own an iPad or similar device – a rate five times higher than the general population, according to a report by the market research firm Knowledge Networks.”

More Development Needed to Fully Realize iPad Advantage

While some may contend that the combination of EHR and iPad adoption is purely coincidental, they should consider the lack of enthusiasm for current, non-mobile computing solutions in the healthcare industry. According to C. Peter Waegemann, vice president for development at mHealth Initiative, “various studies have found that between 60 percent and 80 percent of health information technology users in hospitals are unhappy with their computer systems, finding them too cumbersome or slow to use.”

In fact, a recent study, authored and conducted by QuantiaMD (an online physician-to-physician learning collaborative) – the overwhelming majority of physicians are charting on a mobile tablet, or believe it is likely they will be charting on a mobile tablet in the future.

iPad EHR Adoption

Source:  © 2011, Quantia Communications, Inc.

Tablet technology, like the iPad, is the obvious answer to replace outdated and cumbersome stationary hardware. However, even the iPad is useless unless the EHR software it’s running is designed, built, and optimized specifically for the iPad.

However, according to Software Advice, the majority of the most prominent EMR products can only display their software on the iPad over a network using slow-running, remote access software (think of running your EMR through webinar software like Webex or Go-To-Meeting). The EMR application is not actually running on the iPad or the iPad browser. Instead, the remote access application is allowing you to view the application, as if you were at a desktop or laptop. This approach allows physicians to access their old-fashioned, EMR but the experience is slower and not optimized for iPad use and fingertip touch.

To fully realize the potential of the iPad in healthcare, it will take the continual development and evolution of technology. This includes adoption of software created specifically for the iPad, which is also cross compatible with other computing hardware. As new cloud-based EHR applications emerge on the scene, such as the MediTouch EHR, we can more fully realize the iPad's opportunity to transform the healthcare industry to bring a new level of service and convenience to physicians and their patients.

Thumbnail image created by Blake Patterson

  • Kim Labow

    Thank you for your insightful blog post and for sharing you thoughts on mhealth’s potential to improve clinical workflow. As you mentioned in the post, tablet devices are incredibly practical for physicians. From anywhere, they can connect to critical health information, allow for patient charting and provide a space where stakeholders can share actionable health data. At NaviNet, our mobile solution provides physicians with anytime and anywhere access to timely, patient- specific information and enhances clinical decision support. Learn more here:

  • David Patterson

        The iPad would be even better if it could pull data from the now defunct Google health.  It still has the potential to advance the efficiency of care of medical facilities.

  • Marty Briggs

    Great point Lisa, and something I definitely should’ve mentioned.  The importance of familiar UI can never be underestimated, especially when adopting an entirely new product/system like an electronic medical record.  Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the post.

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