First, a word of caution: the Manhattan Research survey that yielded this data was performed online, so that’s going to skew the results straight away. But even taking that into account, it’s powerful data.
According to the survey, just over a quarter of all doctors in the EU — primary care and specialist — use an iPad for professional purposes. That’s a big number for a device primarily aimed at content consumption and not hardened against a hospital environment.
And it seems that the doctors in fact do use it primarily for content consumption: a quarter of their “work online time” is spent on it (55% is still on a desktop), looking up articles, showing online resources to patients, and so on. Right now the market for iPad-oriented productivity software for healthcare appears to be more or less wide open; doctors are using the device (40% planned to buy one in the next six months as well), but more as a portable web browser than a care accessory.
There are some medical apps and services coming to the iPad, but the medical establishment isn’t very quick to move. Many hospitals still use systems from the 90s or before because of the effort and money that would be involved with upgrading. And standards for privacy, emissions, documentation, and so on have to be consistent as well, something that doesn’t happen overnight.
For the moment, the iPad is simply a useful portable screen on which a doctor can pull up relevant info for a patient, browse recent journal articles without going back to their office, or do some light email. It will take a long time for development to catch up with the needs of the community, but this foot in the door by Apple could become extremely valuable a little ways down the line.
There is no question that connected healthcare is in our future. The technology is certainly there, as evidenced by the growing number of smartphones and tablets being used in hospitals and physician offices. Unfortunately, the hurdle for most developers has been the regulatory approval process—a tedious but necessary process to get mobile medical technology off the design table and into the market.
As the industry continues to innovate, one of the main challenges for developers has been waiting for the FDA to figure out how it will apply its regulatory authorities to select software applications intended for use on mobile platforms. Needless to say, this is slowing an already slow approval process.
The industry is making headway, however. Last week, GE Healthcare, www.gelifesciences.com, announced it received FDA clearance for a technology that allows radiologists to remotely review diagnostic CT (computed tomography) and MR (magnetic resonance) images using their iPads or iPhones.
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