Although doctors believe the Apple iPad will play a beneficial role in health care, many say the popular Apple tablet lacks the software innovation needed in the medical profession, according to a new study by Spyglass Consulting Group.
In the report "Point of Care Computing for Physicians 2012," 80 percent of physicians surveyed believed that the Apple iPad will be a positive player in health care in the future but that it's not ready to have an impact on care delivery.
For the iPad to be successful in health care, software vendors will need to rewrite and optimize clinical applications to incorporate gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and video conferencing, the firm reports.
"What we do know right now is we have leading-edge hardware; we need leading-edge software to complement it," Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group, told eWEEK.
Nuance Communications is an example of a company that is doing well as far as mobile technology and natural language speech recognition, said Malkary. The company reportedly powers Siri, the voice technology in the Apple iPhone 4S.
"Nuance is clearly holding the flag, and I think we need to see more innovation in terms of the vendor community embracing their technologies," he said.
EHR vendors AllScripts and Epic Systems are also progressing with clinical applications for the iPad, Malkary noted. Epic has developed Canto for the iPad, a secure EHR application that supports dictation.
"It's a very significant investment for vendors to redesign their applications for these different form factors," said Malkary.
With 3G and 4G cellular broadband connectivity widespread and applications connecting to data in the cloud, 98 percent of doctors surveyed have embraced the use of mobile devices for professional and personal use, Spyglass reports.
Still, hospital IT managers resist use of the iPad in hospitals, according to Spyglass. Of doctors surveyed, 75 percent reported that hospital IT departments were hesitant to support mobile devices on corporate networks due to security concerns, Spyglass reports.
For the report, Spyglass conducted phone interviews with more than 100 doctors in acute and ambulatory care in the United States from July to October 2011.
The goal of the survey was to explore possible workflow inefficiencies in the way doctors access clinical information and explore barriers for widespread use of the mobile devices.
Spyglass also studied various usage models for mobile devices in health care.
Health care will need to support diverse types of mobile devices for them to make an impact in the industry, according to a white paper by research firm Frost & Sullivan. These include smartphones, tablets, push-to-talk models and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices, which enable remote patient monitoring and connect wireless diagnostic equipment to cellular networks.
Doctors often don't find using multiple devices efficient, Malkary noted. "If all I'm doing is separating things into separate screens, it's going to take me three times as long to do the same tasks and I think that's what doctors are having an issue with," he said.
In fact, 83 percent of physicians interviewed primarily used desktop PCs to access corporate assets and patient data, Spyglass reports.
The Spyglass report is part of "Healthcare Without Bounds," the company's series of reports examining the future of mobile and wireless technologies in health care.
Mobile devices such as the iPad are used more to manage business workflow or for accessing reference content rather than clinical support, said Malkary.
"As soon as you ask how it's used in the clinical setting, [doctors] say, "Well, we're not quite right there,'" said Malkary. "They need to be optimized to run on that platform, and right now, they're forced to use remote access tools like Citrix or other desktop virtualization tools."
Spyglass announced the results of its survey on Jan. 31.
Companies are working to develop applications for the iPad, however. Practice Fusion's electronic health record platform can be viewed on the Apple iPad. One nurse practitioner (and Hurricane Katrina survivor), Dr. Scharmaine Lawson-Baker, uses the iPad to make house calls in New Orleans.
Practice Fusion is working with design company Cooper to develop a native application for the iPad.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chrono offers one of the first native EHR apps for the iPad. The startup announced on Jan. 26 that it received $2.8 million in funding from tech investor Yuri Milner.
Dr. Chrono's iPad Patient Care Platform incorporates speech-to-text recognition from M*Modal, a developer of clinical documentation and speech and natural language understanding.
The Dr. Chrono iPad app includes features such as practice management, medical billing, EHR access and electronic prescribing. It also offers a patient check-in app called OnPatient.
Meanwhile, a company called Voalt??Â« now offers a VOIP messaging application on the iPad. "[Voalt??Â«] is clearly a step in the right direction for remote patient monitoring and medical monitoring, but that's only one step," said Malkary.