Apple's Mistri a 'secret weapon' in hospital iPad push

Apple's low-key healthcare guru, Afshad Mistri, might be a bit uncomfortable with the spotlight put squarely on him by a recent Wired magazine article.

It's a spotlight Mistri largely has dodged since his hiring two years ago. But Wired's piece uncovers huge swaths of Mistri's multi-faceted, if quiet, campaign to convince hospitals to test out and use the iPad.

"Afshad Mistri is Apple's secret weapon in a stealth campaign to get the iPad into the hands of doctors. And it's a campaign that seems to be paying off," author Robert McMillan writes. "If you talk to technical staffers at any large hospital that is using--or even thinking of using--iPads today, Afshad Mistri's name is pretty likely to come up."

And he's making some pretty bold moves, according to Wired, including:

  • Making house calls to hospitals in Chicago to help early adopters tweak their pilot studies on iPad efficacy;
  • Holding a series of invitation-only meetings with hospitals across Canada that are considering implementing iPads. (The Ottawa Hospital kicked off Canada's emerging love affair with the tablet some time ago, and now has more than 3,000 devices in circulation and more on the way.);
  • Launching the iTunes room for healthcare this September, designed to help providers navigate the thousands of emerging healthcare apps.

His very existence shows a powerful Apple commitment to putting iPads in physicians' hands, Elliot Fishman a professor of radiology at Johns Hopkins, tells Wired.

"Just the fact that he exists, that there's a director for medical marketing, tells you it's different because Apple never does vertical markets," he said. "The fact that two years ago they assigned someone to that position tells you there is a difference."

A number of bloggers note that Mistri's campaign must remain informal and out of the public eye to avoid drawing the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pending guidance on mobile medical software indicates that hardware makers who put out specific claims for their devices being used in the medical field may be considered mobile medical app manufacturers. "Apple must walk a fine line when pitching the tablet," The Motley Fool's Evan Niu writes.

To learn more:
- read the Wired article
- here's the Motley Fool's take
- dig into GigaOM's coverage
- learn more about the iTunes healthcare store from Canadian Healthcare Technology's piece