Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Apple needs to do to make the iPad a truely functional medical device

Disclaimer: This post is based on the publically released specs of the new iPad.  I have not personally seen the device nor used it.  I have, however used, and continue to use an iPod Touch and have experience with the iPhone, MacBook Pro and iMac.

Like many others I watched the Apple annoucement with interest.  I had heard many reports about potential medical uses for the new device and was eager to see what was being released.  Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by what was released.

On the positive side the size and shape of the device is right to be easily carried from room to room and will easily fit into a messenger sized bag.  The screen is the right size to examine X-rays and other radiographic studies and the listed resolution is more than adequate to produce easily interpretable pictures.  In addition the docking port opens up a wide range of possibilities for monitoring devices to download patient information.

With that being said here is a list of the issues that I believe need to be resolved

  1. OS 3.x is not adequate for such as device.  I have, over the years, written multiple patient databases for use in calcuations and tracking and have come to the conclusion that there is no way, at present, to write an all encompasing patient case application which will cover all needs. 
    This is important to realize because in the case of OS 3 multitasking is not fully possible (push notifications & some background processes will run).  Health care practitioners will need to simultaneously run several applications to do data acquision, calculations and then using 'cut and paste' enter the data into the medical record.  Under OS 3, in it's current configuration, each application closes when switching to the next one making this extremely difficult to perform the switching back and forth needed to easily encorporate data into  the master record. 
  2. To date I have been unsuccessful in getting either an iPhone or iPod Touch to be able to log into our institutions VPN which uses a Juniper Network, Citrix server configuration. No such issues exist for any netbook/notebook/desktop using Linux/OS X.x/Windows.  This issue will need to be corrected in the software before the device will be usable as a remote access portal.
  3. A touch screen raises issues of infection.  When a health care provider makes physical contact with patients proper infection control mandate that adequate barrier precautions be taken.  These can range from simple hand washing before and after contact any provider who makes contact with patients will have to continually clean their hands or change gloves to use a touch screen.  A stylus with  a disposable cover would solve this issue but based on Apple's history such accessories will need to be supplies by a third party.

I would need to try out the virtural keyboard before making any comments but a keyboard will be essential for the entering of patient data into records and the keyboard dock does not meet the need.

With the above comments in mind and before trying one in the local Apple store at present I have no plans to purchase the device for use as a medical tool until the above issues are addressed.

Posted via web from Dr. Mom's Posterous

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