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Can the iPad cure what ails us?

Tom Kaneshige, CIO | June 6, 2011
Tom Kaneshige of CIO looks at a few ways that Texas Health Resources, a healthcare provider with 24 hospitals, is using the iPad to help clinicians spend more time with patients.

For an organization with many personal iPhones and iPads in the field, vetting apps can be a monumental task. Texas Health’s solution: an enterprise social network similar to Twitter. Doctors and nurses can talk about the pros and cons of certain apps, find out what apps their peers are using, and learn what apps to avoid.

Other apps will play a central role at Texas Health. A dozen doctors in a pilot group are testing an app that accesses electronic healthcare records. “We’re going to roll it out to one of our hospitals,” Velasco says. “By the end of the year, we expect to have it out to all of our physicians who have tablets.”

This month, Texas Health will deploy an app that lets clinicians view EKGs from both smartphones and tablets rather than on computers in nursing stations. Medical equipment vendors embracing the iPad have made this app possible. GE Healthcare teamed with AirStrip Technologies earlier this year to allow EKG data to appear on iPhones and iPads. Texas Health and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center will be using the AirStrip technology.

On the in-house app development front, Texas Health is working with a neurosurgeon to develop an app that taps into the iPad’s three-axis gyroscope. The gyroscope has helped the iPad become a serious gaming platform; it gives gamers the ability to control virtual cars and planes. Texas Health is using this platform to create an app that will allow patients to perform certain specific motor skills that a neurosurgeon can evaluate, possibly making an early diagnosis of a disorder.

Priority one: patients

Texas Health has half-a-dozen smartphone and tablet apps in the works, running on iOS and Android. Velasco is considering support for Hewlett-Packard tablets, too. “We don’t want to lock ourselves into one platform,” he says.

An equal number of apps are aimed at patients with smartphones and tablets. Last month, Texas Health released a smartphone app for patients to access their health records. The app also sends out alerts.

One of the conundrums in developing mobile apps for clinicians and patients is where to start, smartphones or tablets. The tablet has a larger screen so there’s much more you can do with an app, Velasco says. It’s also easier to downsize an iPad app to the iPhone.

On the other hand, most people carry smartphones, not tablets. Even if a doctor or nurse owns both, chances are they’ll have their iPhone with them but not necessarily their iPad. This means, in most cases, Texas Health will develop an app for the smartphone first.

 

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