EMRs already available for iPad, but many questions unanswered

You've no doubt heard the breathless forecasts by now. "With the iPad, Apple may just revolutionize medicine," read one online Washington Post headline. The same story, as I noted Tuesday in FierceMobileHealthcare, said, "Medical-technology trade publications are getting positively Tiger Beat in their enthusiasm."

Yeah, we're pretty giddy about the iPad's potential in healthcare--and we haven't even tried one out yet. (Apple publicists, if you're reading this, I could really use a demo. Thanks.)

This week, we're starting to get announcements about EMRs formatted for the iPad. MacPractice, a Lincoln, Neb., based vendor that makes EMR and practice management software specifically for Apple's Macintosh, has released an iPad integration engine. "We've been overwhelmed with requests from doctors who want to use MacPractice on an iPad," MacPractice President Mark Hollis says in a press release.

We're not surprised. One counter pegs cumulative iPad sales at close to 840,000 units as of midday today. That means Apple has sold 90,000 since Tuesday morning. I have a strong hunch many doctors are among the customers. Epocrates, the mobile healthcare reference giant, has said that 20 percent of U.S. physicians could buy an iPad within a year. The company, of course, is working on an iPad version of its own software.

It's only a matter of time until the big EMR vendors have iPad-compatible software of their own; anything web-based already should work on the device. We know Epic Systems is working with Apple to test a mobile EMR at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions recently updated its iPhone app, and most anything you can get from the Apple App Store should work on the iPad.

All this is for a product that lacks a camera and USB ports and seems fairly fragile for use in a hospital environment. We also don't know how well the iPad stands up to the kind of sanitization that clinical applications would require.

What are your thoughts? Will the iPad and the inevitable knock-offs that are on the way significantly break down barriers to EMR adoption, or is it just the flavor of the month? - Neil