The latest version of the iPad, which incorporates Bluetooth 4.0, opens up a world of possibilities for healthcare providers as they seek to manage information in a healthcare industry that is becoming increasingly data-driven and patient-centric.
For instance, the Henry County Health Center, based in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, is getting ready to roll out 30 iPads this year to doctors who work at the 74-bed hospital. "The doctors are strongly requesting iPads, which is an idea whose time has come," Stephen M. Stewart, Henry County Health Center's CIO told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The reality of life today is that consumer-driven items are infiltrating the workplace, and we need to embrace it rather than fight it."
[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security.
According to officials at the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which announced the availability of Bluetooth Smart-Ready technology for the new iPad, the greatest benefit for healthcare providers is the ability to gather patient data without hooking up the patient to a cluster of wires and machines.
"Bluetooth data collection sensor devices on the body can gather heart rate, temperature, pulse rate, weight, glucose levels, etc. and transmit that data directly to the iPad when the patient is in the healthcare facility, or to a Web portal that is monitored by the healthcare provider when the patient is at home," Mike Foley, executive director, Bluetooth SIG, told InformationWeek Healthcare.
Bluetooth SIG is a nonprofit trade association that publishes the Bluetooth specifications and manages the technology's qualification program. The organization empowers more than 16,000 member companies to collaborate, innovate, and guide Bluetooth wireless technology.
According to Foley, medical peripheral devices such as stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, and pulse oximeters that are Bluetooth enabled are able to take diagnostics and then securely transfer that real-time patient data to a Bluetooth Smart-Ready device such as the iPad.
Data from medical peripheral devices can also be uploaded into the patient's electronic health record or to a personal health record such as Microsoft's cloud-based HealthVault, which can be managed and monitored remotely by a healthcare provider with an iPad.
"Beyond convenience, it better ensures accuracy since you're not counting on a busy, multitasking healthcare professional to accurately remember and transcribe the information onto paper or key it in manually," Foley explained.
Furthermore, Bluetooth technology can empower patients to keep abreast of their health and wellness. For example, individuals monitoring their fitness can record their workout analytics (heart rate, distance, speed, elevation, etc.) on an app that talks to their Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitor. Diabetics can monitor their blood sugar levels from their Bluetooth-enabled glucose meter through an iPad app. Patients can see a chart of their blood sugar levels over the past six months on their new iPad (in full high definition) and show it to their doctor.
Using a standard and secure technology (128-bit AES, military-grade encryption) allows hospitals and clinics to maintain interoperability among devices and manufacturers.
The latest iPad has additional features that will likely appeal to healthcare providers. The Retina display delivers four times the number of pixels compared to the iPad 2, and gives doctors a sharper view of medical images. The 5-megapixel iSight camera will enable doctors to take crisp pictures of wounds, for example, and the tablet's 1080p HD video is an enhancement that physicians can utilize during videoconferencing sessions with other colleagues. The new iPad's speech recognition technology will help doctors enter medical notes by speaking instead of typing.
The iPad's launch comes several weeks after the 2012 HIMSS Leadership Survey was unveiled at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and exhibition in February. Among the 302 health IT executives who responded to the survey, 18% said mobile devices were the second highest infrastructure priority, just behind the implementation of servers/virtual servers, at 19%.
"If you don't have mobility in your strategy then you don't have a strategy," Susan Heichert, CIO of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, said during the HIMSS press briefing to unveil the survey.
The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)