Health 2.0

From Blackberry to iPhone

Last week I retired my Blackberry Bold, removed myself from the Blackberry Enterprise Server, and began using an iPhone 4S as my mobile email, web, and telecommunications platform.

This was not a casual decision.   I’ve used Blackberry products since 1998.  The original Blackberry 850 was named one of the top 50 technologies of the past 50 years.

I receive a wireless communication approximately every 30 seconds from 7am-7pm every day.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays I receive over 1500 emails per 24 hour period.   These communications are filled with media – documents to read, presentations to review, websites to access, and streaming video.    Yes, I still use the email triage approach I outlined in 2007 but it’s a losing battle.   The volume of communication exceeds my ability to process and respond to the information.   I could cancel all my meetings, phone calls, and presentations but still fill the entire day with email communication.

I’m not suggesting this is healthy or sane, but it is the reality of communications today.

The iPhone 4S gives me a touch screen user interface to scroll, zoom, and manage my incoming messages.   I can view every document, website, and video over 3G networks.   Siri and voice recognition features enable me to manage my email by voice.   I find myself dictating responses to about a quarter of my email with amazing accuracy.

I’m still in the learning stage, so my ability to type on a touch screen is still not quite as nimble as on the Blackberry keyboard.   It’s also harder to type while walking between meetings.    However, the learning curve is fast, and the toolset provided by the 4S includes much better web browsing and Exchange integration than Blackberry.  My Macbook Air running Mac OS X Lion with Apple Mail/iCal/Address book is essentially the same software as on the iPhone 4S, so I can switch seamlessly from my mobile device to my laptop with perfect data synchronization.

RIM has been an innovator.   The Blackberry is secure.  The Blackberry has been easy to manage at the enterprise level.    However,  Blackberry is architected to route messages via RIM’s centralized infrastructure.  If that fails, every Blackberry in the world fails.   Blackberry’s user experience has not kept pace with the competition.   Blackberry’s application development tools and app store have not kept pace with iPhone or Android.   Devices such as the Playbook have been introduced before they were ready.

All companies regress to the mean and for RIM it appears to be the beginning of the end.   In the past year, its stock has declined from 70 to 20, a loss of 70%.

The pace of technology change is accelerating so fast, that even those of us in the industry can hardly keep up.   The consumer device world is a shark tank.    Competition is fierce and devices come and go as fast as hemline heights and tie widths change.

My switch to an iPhone 4S was predicated on a need to communicate with more flexibility, power, and speed than a Blackberry could support.

I’m not the only one.  Per our email administrator:

“I’m seeing a slow death of Blackberry.  We have about 400 people still on the Blackberry Enterprise Server. I imagine as contracts expire more will jump to iPhones and Androids.  We lose 5-10 Blackberry accounts per month. iPhones currently outnumber Blackberry 3 to 1.”

Thus, you’ll likely be receiving iPhone 4S emails from me, generated via voice recognition.    Apologies for the typos, I’m still learning.

John D. Halamka, MD, MS, is Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN), Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, a full Professor at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing Emergency Physician. He’s also the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog.

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3 replies »

  1. Awhile back I replaced my Blackberry 8820 with an iPhone 3GS. I wonder how I survived without it (now if I could just plug in micro SD cards and carry spare batteries for the iPhone).

  2. How can you be advocating HIT standards in your committee when the techscape is changing faster than the seats in Congress?

    Everything mandated to date regarding healthcare tech is hogwash.

    You and the other wonks need to get out of the way.

  3. If or when electricity is cut off for a substantial period of time, and be sure that cell phone service will be affected, you will be front and center to the biggest withdrawal states of millions of people who are literally addicted to technology and immediate gratification responses as alluded to above.

    I spoke to a colleague last week who lost his computer service for about a day, and it was manageable, but to those patients and some staff who literally could not handle the task of writing things down and save the paperwork, it was nothing less than pathetic and disgusting to hear him relay that people have zero tolerance to have to wait, to look for alternatives, to actually problem solve.

    And these were not even adolescents/young adults who are historically of late the biggest offenders of this attitude. WHEN your HIT/EMR has a failure, watch out, because it will not be resolved a phone call away.

    Wow, if terrorists really wanted to create mayhem, power supplies would be such an easy target in the end. And it is nothing less than incredible that people in charge of these utilities act so indignant of their vulnerability.

    Probably because they are too busy playing with their phones!

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