Apple Capitalizes On Doctors' iPad Romance

Apple's medical manager has been promoting the tablets in a variety of venues, including iTunes' healthcare room.

Ken Terry, Contributor

December 9, 2011

4 Min Read

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It's well known that doctors love iPads. What's less well known is that Apple has a strategy to capitalize on that romance with its technology.

Apple's medical market manager, Afshad Mistri, is the company's "secret weapon in a stealth campaign to get the iPad into the hands of doctors," according to a piece in Wired Enterprise. And it's a campaign that seems to be paying off."

Wired cites Mistri's broad name recognition in hospital IT departments; his recent tour of Canada to introduce healthcare professionals in that country to the iPad; and his launch of a special iTunes "app room" for healthcare in September.

Apple declined to make Mistri or any other company executive available to InformationWeek Healthcare. But an Apple representative did list contacts at several leading healthcare organizations that support iPads and iPhones, including Johns Hopkins, HCA, Mayo Clinic, and Ottawa Hospital.

Apple noted that Ottawa Hospital, in Ontario, Canada, has deployed 3,000 iPads. Johns Hopkins "has armed surgeons with iPad devices to use the Siemens application for imaging." Mayo Clinic has 10,000 iPhones and 2,000 iPads, Apple said, and HCA "has deployed iPhone and iPad devices with AirStrip OB and AirStrip Cardiology apps."

[For background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch.]

Jonathan Perlin, MD, president of clinical services and chief medical officer for HCA, told InformationWeek Healthcare in an email, "Good patient care requires having the right information at the right time. We are increasingly supporting doctors using tablets and smartphones. They are power users of these devices, and providing secure access to electronic health information, fetal monitors, and heart rhythms, at the moment a question or patient need arises, promotes quality care."

An HCA spokesman explained that the big hospital chain is not purchasing tablets or smartphones for its doctors. Instead, it is supporting the use of their personal devices by "providing secure access to health information."

A recent HIMSS survey showed a marked divergence among hospitals' approaches to the use of tablets and smartphones in their facilities. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they offer smartphones and 57% are willing to provide tablets to clinicians. That jibes with another finding: 55% of hospitals support only devices provided or owned by the institution, while 40% support devices that belong to users and enable those devices for work-related functions.

iPads are not designed for healthcare, but an increasing number of healthcare apps are being written for them. These include reference and educational apps, as well as electronic medical record, patient monitoring, imaging, and point-of-care apps. The latter include programs designed for particular medical specialties. The iTunes room features many of these.

Apple also recently said that the FaceTime videochat feature on its iPhone4 and iPad2 May be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant. If so, physicians could use that function to do remote consults with patients.

Doug Hires, a partner in Santa Rosa Consulting, based in Nashville, Tenn., and Bloomfield Hills, Mich., told InformationWeek Healthcare that he expects to see many more professional healthcare apps written for the iPad. "I think we'll see it in a number of different disciplines," he said. Many developers are creating native apps that take full advantage of the iPad's user interface and other features.

Physicians like the iPad better than earlier tablet computers, Hires pointed out, because it's lighter, cheaper, and has a longer battery life than those devices did. It's also "a very popular, trendy consumer device," he added.

Apple has traditionally focused on consumer products and has not been known for marketing to many specific industries. But that may be changing. Apple said earlier this year that 80-85% of the Fortune 500 companies are using or testing iPads, noted Hires. "They're driving hard, whether it's in healthcare or other industries, to get this to be a commercial tool."

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Ken Terry


Ken Terry is a freelance healthcare writer, specializing in health IT. A former technology editor of Medical Economics Magazine, he is also the author of the book Rx For Healthcare Reform.

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