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iPad 2 Highlights Mobile Healthcare Advancements

Apple's tablet creates opportunities for healthcare providers to better organize, store, and share medical data using mobile technology and can empower doctors to be more productive and decisive.

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If the launch of Apple's iPad 2 is any indication of what's in store for mobile health, then 2011 promises to be a year of tremendous strides in the development of mobile devices and software applications used in healthcare.

In fact, the unveiling last week of the iPad 2, is the latest in a growing number of technology announcements by telecommunications companies, as well as hardware and software vendors, that will set the stage this year for further advancements in mobile health at hospitals, physician offices, and other healthcare delivery organizations.

Recent studies have already shown widespread adoption of the iPad among clinicians. Now with improvements added to the iPad 2, doctors may realize even more progress in the way they manage their digitized health records.

For a start, the iPad 2 boasts the A5 dual-core processor that makes it run much faster than the previous iPad, which was introduced last year. Additionally, graphics are processed up to nine times faster than the older device, which will enhance the delivery of medical images such as CT scans, x-rays, and ultrasound scans.

For the first time, the iPad 2 comes outfitted with cameras -- one in the back and one in the front -- plus a gyroscope. Doctors, particularly in rural areas where there are fewer specialists and resources, can take pictures of their patients' wounds, upload the images, and share them with colleagues as they seek to improve patient care. Additionally, the iPad 2 is thinner at 8.8 mm (the first iPad was 13.4 mm) and lighter (1.3 pounds versus 1.5 pounds), which should make it easier for doctors to carry the device from one medical appointment to another while taking advantage of the 10-hour battery life. Apple will sell models that work on AT&T and Verizon 3G networks. The cost has remained the same at $499. The new iPad 2 will ship on March 11.

At the iPad 2 launch event, a video presentation highlighted the iPad's use in various work environments. During the presentation, Dr. John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said the iPad's ability to access medical records has empowered doctors to be more productive and decisive because iPads "give doctors at the point-of-care the tools they need at the exact moment the doctor can make a difference."

Halamka also said the iPad is bringing patients and doctors together as they discuss each patient's medical condition. "In fact, doctors are engaging patients by showing them images [and] showing them data on the screen."

A faster, smarter iPad 2 helps not only the clinicians who use the product in their work environment, but it also breathes life into a growing number of health applications being developed by vendors looking to organize, store, and share medical data. In fact, vendors are quick to note that their products are iPad ready -- an added selling point for their own health related products.

For example, at last month's Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, Fla., GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric Company, demonstrated the applications it plans to roll out this year to let physicians remotely access its portfolio of electronic medical records (EMRs), including Centricity Advance and Centricity Practice Solution, on the Apple iPad and iPhone.

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