iPads tested for post-surgical 'telerounding'

Bringing telehealth and mobile technology together, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit is using the iPad to enable post-surgical "telerounding." Doctors can video-chat with patients, view scars, check for symptoms of pain, and other issues, the hospital recently announced.

This kind of remote rounding isn't exactly new, but the iPad does change the game a little. Previous iterations were telerobots, or wireless laptops on wheels that would be moved from room to room to allow physicians and patients to have a video-conference.

The new iPad version being tested at Henry Ford puts the much smaller, lighter and more maneuverable iPad in the hands of the patient, and the physician, allowing them to communicate through Apple's FaceTime app, according to hospital officials. So far, they said, the iPad chats are largely taking the place of post-surgery phone calls, which most surgeons used when they were offsite, but needed to check up on a patient.

"Patients are looking for us to use current technology in a way that improves their care, and 'telerounding' with the iPad really fits that need in enhancing the communication and care following surgery," Craig Rogers, Henry Ford's director of renal surgery and urologic oncology, said in a statement.

On the security front, hospital officials indicated that the video chats are "private," but don't specify how they've been secured. Apple announced last year that FaceTime software could be configured to be secure enough to satisfy HIPAA requirements.

Telehealth may provide another foot in the healthcare door for iPads. While market data shows physicians are clearly using the devices for administrative work-related tasks, as well as for educating patients, recent studies have shown that the clinical apps available for iPads simply don't make the grade yet.

"Significant software innovation will be required to realize the vision for anytime, anywhere clinical computing," Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group, told InformationWeek Healthcare in February. "Clinical applications must be rewritten and optimized to take advantage of the native capabilities of the Apple iPad and other mobile devices including gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications, and video conferencing."

On the telehealth front, though, we'll be interested to see if the new ultra-sharp retina display tips the scales in favor of using iPads for televisits and telerounding.

To learn more:
- read the Henry Ford Hospital announcement
- dig into the InformationWeek Healthcare's article