Apple Targets Healthcare Enterprise

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While the Apple iPhone was first targeted at the general consumer, Apple has been taking the necessary steps to bring this device into the enterprise, directly competing with RIM’s Blackberry.  Unseating the Blackberry in many sectors, such as finance, may be near impossible but healthcare is another story.  Within healthcare, Palm, with its Treo was extremely popular as it was not only a communication device (cell, email, etc.) but also supported other apps such as the very popular Epocrates.  Palm lost its focus, sat on its laurels, the Treo became dated, barriers to entry lowered.  Enter the iPhone, its intuitive interface, a touch screen, an ever increasing number of medical apps and Palm is basically out in the healthcare.

The iPhone was first adopted by physicians independently of the organizations (hospitals) they worked for to do simple communication and access numerous apps that helped them in their day-to-day activities.  Seeing this adoption trend. some of the EMR vendors also started to get on-board offering iPhone access to their app (AllScripts introduced theirs at HIMSS’09). But this adoption, for the most part, remained separate from broader enterprise (hospital) initiatives as early versions of iPhone’s operating system (OS) were simply not enterprise ready.

But this is changing.

Apple’s iPhone OS, which has seen significant improvements since its introduction and now has robust enterprise features, including security ( HIPAA compliance), integration to the ever popular Microsoft Exchange Server (calendar, email, etc.), and an SDK to build apps for internal purposes.

To showcase the iPhone in enterprises, Apple now has a section of their website dedicated to showcasing customer deployments of the iPhone in an enterprise.  Of the 15 enterprise case studies presented, 20% of them are dedicated to the healthcare market; Mt. Sinai in Toronto, Memorial Hermann in Houston and Doylestown Hospital in Pennsylvania. Of all the enterprise verticals to profile, dedicating 20% of case studies to one market, healthcare, signals Apple’s intent to invest in this market.

Common threads in each story:

1) Security features of iPhone OS insure HIPAA compliance.

2) Ability to use Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for email and calendaring features.

3) iPhone’s intuitive interface minimizes training requirements.

4) iPhone is readily portable and can deliver the right information at the right time to the right individual.

5) iPhone’s ecosystem of applications allows a hospital and its clinicians to tap a wide range of applications to customize the iPhone to their particular needs. Many of these apps are free thus not a drain on ever tight IT budgets.

As Hermann Memorial’s CIO, David Bradshaw stated:

Healthcare is a real-time business.

And as we’ve said before:

Health is mobile.

The combination of an ecosystem of relevant applications with enterprise connectivity in a secure, easy to use, mobile construct is the future of healthcare IT, at least for clinicians.  The next step is bridging the divide between clinician and consumer through the use of such technologies. We’re not there yet, but hopefully, Apple is working with a healthcare organization (or at least will uncover one) and present such a case study in the near future.
John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.

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10 replies »

  1. Health Care providers definitely need to keep up with the technology of their customers. It will definitely makes things easier for the both of us. I have yet to see a health care provider dive directly into this market for faster services and easier communication between their clients. It is definitely something huge to look into..

  2. HTH Worldwide has launched an app for iPhone mPassport covering major destinations around the world. Find doctors, translate meds, etc …. highly rated. 20 cities so far. Check it out.

  3. First Aid Corps has provided smartphone apps to locate the nearest AEDs for cardiac arrests.
    Iphone users can download “AED Nearby”, Droid users download “ShowNearby AED” from the respective app stores.
    To help us update these apps with AEDs near you :
    a.iPhone users download “beextra”, search and follow “First Aid Corps”… and perform mission 1.
    b. Droid users use the same app “ShowNearby AED” and tap on “Add new AED”.
    For more information go to http://www.firstaidcorps.org.
    News from American Medical Association – http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/02/22/bisd0224.htm

  4. One only has to google “iPhone multithread” to find article after article about how to program multithreaded apps on the iPhone, Franetk.
    If your complaint is about the iPhone/iTouch’s perceived lack of multitasking support, one only has to use the device to know that is false, too. The hardware and OS support preemptive multitasking. It’s why you can get a phone call while surfing the Web. Apple chooses to prevent other (non-Apple) 3rd party apps from running in the “background” for a number of reasons. One is to help ensure that the devices provide adequate battery life. Running multiple apps simultaneously sucks a lot of juice from those little batteries.
    This leads into another reason Apple forces 3rd party apps to play in a sandbox that only allows foreground execution. It is to keep things simple for the user. In spite of the prevalence of computer tech in our lives, the average users are *dumb*. The majority of people *still* have no idea how to optimally use their computers. All you have to do is walk around the office. You’ll see how people store all their files on their desktop, instead of in a hierarchical directory structure. Or they’ll use only one app at a time, but they won’t close down the apps they aren’t using in between uses. This doesn’t matter much on a desktop or even a laptop. But it is incredibly important on a handheld mobile device. I know this to be true because I have heard my friends with Droid and Palm phones complain about low battery life, only to find they have a dozen apps running unnecessarily in the background. By forcing users to shut down the 3rd party apps they aren’t using, Apple is keeping things simple, minimizing the chance occurrences of side effects, and protecting the users from their own ignorance,
    Lastly, there are ways around this limitation.

  5. If Apple is serious about the enterprise they must start by building multi-threaded hardware.
    There current single threaded devices are not enterprise devices.

  6. I think you have things mixed up about what is closed and open.
    The main thing Apple appears to limit are applications with sexual content, applications that don’t add any more than what can be accomplished with a web browser and applications that compete or duplicate what the iPhone does presently.
    There are no limitations in terms of data exchange. I can access our office EMR program as well as the local hospital HIS system without any problem. Additionally, I have Osirix which allows me to access the PACS system to review radiographic studies. There are literally thousands of medical programs that allow extensive functionality of the iPhone and I expect things will be even better with the iPad.

  7. I was thinking that an open model based on the Clinical Groupware Collaborative interoperability capability would be better than a closed enterprise model.
    I can understand that enterprises would want to keep everything within their borders but the real world has patients traveling all over the place. The closed enterprise model doesn’t deal with ‘out of network’ labs, doctors, etc. very well.
    If you have a controlled platform such as Apple, the enterprise will be happy but this will limit the applications and data exchange available. Patients and doctors will not be able to exchange information as easily since they won’t be able to easily use applications to communicate outside the enterprise.

  8. Mark, not sure if your trolling. The so called ‘closed’ environment may actually be helpful in enterprise and in health care as there is more control over the device. Plus, enterprise apps not sold on the App Store are not monitored or controlled by Apple.
    PS: Android is only partially ‘open’.

  9. I am just wondering if the Apple closed development environment and closed Appstore will hinder adoption. Apple is fairly notorious for having tight control of which applications will be permitted in the Appstore and it isn’t possible to install applications that are not approved (without jailbreaking).
    I would think that this would make it cumbersome for an enterprise to develop and distribute applications. (I believe that there is some type of closed enterprise key that can be used but this also restricts the free adoption of applications.)

  10. I have to say that this article was very interesting! I thinks it’s amazing how the iPhone has come such a long way. Not to mention the apps that they have added to it. What will they come up with next??

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