A few days ago, while Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad2—the latest device that will instantly transform all of our lives—he made a point to specifically talk up the flashy new device's formidable collection of health care applications designed for physicians and other health care providers. And in an accompanying video, John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, was featured extolling the virtues of the iPad in the clinical setting.
"What we've tried to do on the iPad is give doctors at the point of care the tools they need at the exact moment a doctor can make a difference," Halamka said.
In general, I'm hearing more and more buzz lately from the field about the potential for tablets, smartphones and accompanying applications to change how hospitals and physicians think about and use health IT. When I interviewed Steve Lieber, CEO of HIMSS, last month, he offered his opinion that mobile technologies are poised dramatically alter the delivery of care—as the technologies enable doctors and other providers to extend out of hospital IT departments and into patients' homes and other settings. Ultimately, Lieber said, hospitals will have to change their IT departments from in-house systems to those that work collaboratively with a variety of devices out in the field.
Still, there are skeptics about whether the technology is quite there yet to support meaningful clinical change will. A friend of mine who's a business consultant is wary of how much capacity the current generation of tablets has for applications he uses to manage his projects—an issue to keep in mind for physicians, too. Then there's that pesky 10-hour battery life—which could be an issue for busy clinicians.
Overall, though, looking at the online reaction to Tuesday's announcement, the general consensus from health care observers appears to be measured enthusiasm. And in the long run, it's more a question of when, than if, a more mobile delivery system emerges where nurses and docs deliver care and share data on a diverse array of devices, both in the hospital and out in the field.