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8/26/2011
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Medical Community Pays Tribute To Steve Jobs

Healthcare leaders say Apple's iPhone and iPad have revolutionized the practice of medicine and the relationship between doctors and patients.

10 Key Steve Jobs Moments and Innovations
10 Key Steve Jobs Moments and Innovations
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The news that Steve Jobs will step down as CEO of Apple has prompted many in the medical community to give a farewell salute to the innovator whose products have transformed the way doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers deliver care to patients.

Since submitting his resignation letter to Apple's board of directors on August 24, tributes have poured in to InformationWeek Healthcare from hospital CIOs, doctors, and medical organizations. The tributes point out that the mobile devices Jobs created, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch--as well as the health applications developed specifically for these devices--have enabled doctors, nurses, and patients to enter, access, and share clinical data. Similarly the medical images that can be viewed on these devices have raised the level of care and improved the way they perform their tasks on a daily basis.

"What Steve has done is enabled our imagination," Dr. John Halamka, CIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told InformaitonWeek Healthcare. "CIOs and doctors are now envisioning solutions that would not have been possible without Steve's innovations."

With 1,000 iPad's and 1,600 iPhones connected to the Beth Israel network, which were all purchased by doctors, nurses, medical students, and residents, Halamka has observed that his medical staff has found that Apple's products are just the right size and shape, the right weight, and have the right battery life and functionality to help them perform their jobs better.

"Has anyone gone out and bought a BlackBerry Playbook? No. Are doctors buying thousands of Lenovo laptops? No. And now the HP Touchpad is out the door," Halamka said.

As an emergency physician, Halamka also observed that the iPad offers him the opportunity to better collaborate with his patients when making medical decisions.

"The laptop was a barrier. It was like a screen being put up between the two of us, my eyes were focused on the laptop and not on the patient," Halamka said. "Then the iPad came along and was a game changer because it invites the doctor and the patient to look at this device together. Just think about the way you hold it, it is not something that you have a wall between you and the patient, so I can show the patient their x-rays or lab tests. What I and many other clinicians have experienced is that the iPad invites shared decision making as opposed to patient and doctor alienation."

Keith Fraidenburg, vice president, Education & Communications at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) said the news "seems to signal the impending loss of a true champion of innovation."

In an interview, Fraidenburg noted that the iPad, along with the iPhone and iPod touch, have opened the door to an era of incredible innovation and transformation in healthcare.

"Prior to the introduction of these devices, hospital IT departments typically supported a single-device or single-platform. In the case of smartphones, primarily Blackberry devices. The introduction and adoption of the iPad and iPod touch changed everything," Fraidenburg said. "With an increasing number of doctors coming to their IT department saying, 'I just bought an iPhone and love it. Can your IT team support it?', or 'I found this great new app for my iPad that will help me be a better doctor, how can I integrate this information into my practice setting?', hospital IT departments have really been forced to become more device and platform agnostic."

The fact that Apple's products are so popular among hospital employees is a direct result of its wild popularity with consumers who have not only flocked to the devices, but also to the health apps that run on them, said Irene Berlinsky, IDC's senior research analyst covering Multiplay Services.

"Apple popularized the apps ecosystem and so ushered in the possibility to write an app for almost anything. Consumers can take charge of their own health with apps that let them track weight, log nutritional information while grocery store shopping, and even monitor indicators like glucose and blood pressure. The iPad, on the other hand, is changing the other half of the treatment equation--doctors' habits," Berlinsky said.

Dr. Ferdinand Velasco, chief medical information officer at Arlington, Texas-based Texas Health Resources, echoes Berlinsky's sentiment that Apple's consumer driven approach has permanently changed the dynamics surrounding how IT is adopted in healthcare.

"The most significant impact that Steve Jobs' innovations has had is the 'consumerization' of corporate IT, including IT in the healthcare setting. By introducing devices such as the iPhone and iPad to the market that have been enthusiastically embraced by a broad cross-section of consumers, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in computing from a traditional 'top-down' approach to a more user-driven model," Velasco said. "In the traditional corporate model, large vendors and the corporate IT departments dictate ('push') what software and hardware are used by employees. In the 'post-PC' era, the user experience is now the central focus and consumers are 'pulling' IT to meet their business needs. Even with Steve Jobs resigning as Apple's CEO, it is unlikely that this paradigm shift will be reversed."

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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