The iPad’s other life: medical device extraordinaire


The iPad (s aapl) has been a success for Apple in business, apparently in spite of Apple’s lackadaisical approach to promoting its products directly to enterprise customers. But there’s a specific vertical market where the company is clearly making a concerted effort to promote professional adoption of the iPad: medicine.

Apple has a medical market manager, Afshad Mistri, who was profiled by Wired in a feature on Monday. Mistri is rare because he has a specific type of business to sell to: health care. Mistri is behind the dedicated iTunes store section for professional health care apps, has organized conferences on how to use the iPad in medicine, and is known to make house calls for medical professionals hoping to set up their organizations with iPads for use in treatment and patient care.

We have talked in the past about how iPads can help hospitals and doctors modernize their record-keeping systems. A program instituted in July offers doctors incentives for using electronic medical record (EMR) software on the iPad, and during our recent RoadMap conference, MIT Media Lab’s director of new media medicine, Frank Moss, said that “everyone’s got an iPad” at the nation’s leading medical schools these days.

Much of the iPad’s use in medical settings so far has been in the form of pilots and trials, but it’s getting ready to take off in a much bigger way. The Veteran’s Administration in the U.S. is looking at rolling out as many as 100,000 tablets across 152 hospitals, says Wired, based on the success of the 1,500 trial iPads it currently has in use. Over 80 percent of U.S. hospitals have similar trials in place, according to recent comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook, which means that many more could soon take the plunge, resulting in a huge uptick of orders from medical organizations for the generally consumer-oriented device.

IPads can help on both sides of the stethoscope. For patients, they can act as a source of entertainment, providing a way for those who are bed-bound to escape their situation and just browse the web, play games or watch a movie privately and in comfort. Doctors can use them to consult more easily while out of office, and they increase the likelihood of uptake for EMR programs, since they make such records convenient and accessible, instead of a chore tied to a stationary desktop.

Apple’s iPad is a hit with consumers, that much is certain. But its success in health care, which, due to the slower nature of institutional adoption is only now beginning to become significant, might be the key to its remaining the king of the tablet heap. Apple can offer apps, security and a uniformity of experience both within and between medical organizations that Android (s goog) devices can’t match; if the iPad becomes a tool young doctors just can’t live without, as it already appears to have become in many ways, it could be the go-to slate for healing hands for decades to come.


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