It might be a while before the iPad lives up to all the hype

It's been a little over six months since Apple's iPad debuted to much fanfare. Not long after its debut, speculation about what the gadget could do for healthcare was rampant. In February, Dr. Ben Alexander, WakeMed's chief medical information officer and pediatric intensivist, wondered whether the iPad would revolutionize healthcare. Our sibling publication FierceEMR was giddy about the possibilities Apple's sleek tablet computer could open up for healthcare.

Amid the oohing and aahing, some questioned whether the iPad was ready for primetime. It didn't offer fingerprint access, resist dust and spills, or offer voice-to-text dictation, among what some consider "must-have" features, according to American Medical News.

That didn't stop some doctors and other healthcare workers from expanding their iPads' repertoire. By April, Dr. Larry Nathanson, who heads up Beth Israel Deaconess health IT initiatives, was an early convert, according to Hospital Impact. In a blog post, he gushed about how EKGs look better on-screen than on paper. 

Here's a quick look at how a few other intrepid early adopters are using their iPads to do their jobs better:

  • During an operation at a hospital run by Kobe University in Japan, doctors used an iPad wrapped in plastic to zoom in on a CT scan, CrunchGear reports. Check out the accompanying Youtube video from a Japanese newscast.
  • Dr. Jon Mendelsohn, medical director of Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center in Cincinnati is using iPads to go paperless, the Business Courier of Cincinnati reports. The iPad gives him access to patient charts at all hours. Patient charts are accessible on an iPad anytime he visits with a patient, including nights and weekends. Patients will use iPads to fill out paperwork and staff will use them as teaching tools with patients to go over procedures and pre- and post-operative instructions.
  • In Kalkaringi, Australia, which is far from health clinics, Aboriginal Health Workers use iPads as digital files for their patients, whom they visit at home or in shops, Croakey the Health Blog reports. Files are backed up in a secure data center in Sydney.

Is all the hype surrounding the iPad's impact so far on healthcare real? I don't think so. Here's a word to the wise:
Sometimes what is touted as an example of how the iPad is changing healthcare isn't quite all it's cracked up to be. Here's an example. On Business Insider, you can read about a programmer and cardiothoracic surgeon who has developed an app that helps doctors and patients estimate the risks of heart surgery. But when you click on the related link, it is not clear that the app is in use anywhere.

On another page of Business Insider, you learn that instead of buying expensive medical books that quickly become obsolete, hospitals are using the iPad to educate staff. The problem is the link brings you to an article about a hospital where the person in charge of the iPad initiative hasn't fully launched the program. She's still comparing apps.

With time, it's possible iPad applications in healthcare will proliferate. Maybe they'll even save hospitals some money and increase productivity. But for now, take whatever you read about the iPad's impact on healthcare with a grain of salt. - Sandra