Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad Use Case Idea - Healthcare

UPDATE: iMedicalApps demonstrates that an iPad can be used in a sterile field here.

Easy-to-use tablet devices (such as the iPad, which I'll use here to generally refer to any easy-to-use tablet device) give us (humanity) the chance to fundamentally improve everyday experiences. One area where a lot of experience improvement is needed is healthcare. Human errors (many due to poor usability) are a major problem, not to mention the fact that many medical devices deliver pretty poor user experiences. This is not all that surprising, given the heavy burden of clinical, regulatory, and compliance hurdles that medical devices must pass. As a result, products take longer to get to market and once on the market are more costly to change than the typical consumer product, so anything that's viewed as "non-essential" is often the first to go. And rightly or wrongly, user experience is often deemed as non-essential or dismissed as something that can be addressed in training. Combine this with the complexity of the healthcare market, in which it's common for one person to make the purchasing decision, a different person to prescribe the use of the device, and yet another person to actually use the device, and it's not hard to see why poor user experiences prevail.

Enter the iPad, a relatively cheap piece of powerful hardware that is portable, can be mounted anywhere, and requires no accessories to interact with. As the FDA has indicated with healthcare apps running on the iPhone, while medical software may be considered a medical device, the iPad itself (i.e. the hardware operating system) may not end up being considered a medical device. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that the iPad could effectively become THE display and control panel for pretty much any medical device.

The image at the top of the screen shows just one possible use case for the iPad in healthcare. In this case, a clinician in a cath lab (in real life they'd probably be in scrubs but the illustration is just a quick mockup) can use the iPad to review, manipulate, and add annotations to the same images projected on the lab's monitors. And at the end of the procedure, all the results could easily be exported into the clinic's EMR. Such functionality surely exists in today's cath labs, but the iPad allows all the interaction to happen in a context that is more immediate and direct than with today's systems. Perhaps more importantly, cath lab team members will be able to communicate amongst each other more effectively, as the iPad's portability allows for team members to communicate visually ("here doctor, look at this") instead of relying solely on the verbal channel ("note the bifurcation in the right pulmonary artery at approximately 1-inch distal to termination of the pulmonary trunk").

Needless to say, it will be interesting and exciting to see how the healthcare industry responds to the iPad.

Image on monitors and iPad from here.

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