Apple Expanding Into Healthcare?

According to Neil Versel’s Healthcare IT Blog, Apple looks to make a push into healthcare.  

It seems inevitable, given the success of the iPhone in healthcare, but I’m hearing that Apple is getting ready to make a full-scale push into healthcare. I understand that the company invited several vendors to a meeting at an Apple office in Chicago this week. I have no further details on what was said or who was present, but I know that there are a couple of EMR vendors out there who have tailored their products for Macintosh, even if it’s just optimizing the view over the Internet for the Safari browser.

I don’t doubt Neil’s information that Apple is interested in jumping into the healthcare market where there are “billions of dollars in federal money funneled into health IT over the next eight years.”  But it is not a question of Apple getting into healthcare but more of a question of whether healthcare (read hospital IT departments) will allow Apple in. 

I am not talking about research departments or academic medical centers who seem to have a few more Macs on campus than average and where your IT departments are somewhat used to dealing with them.  I am talking about the regular hospital institution where finding a Mac is about as rare as finding a vegetarian at Outback Steakhouse.  They are there, but not always, and don’t count on them to work within the system. 

Neil specifically mentions the success of the iPhone in healthcare as perhaps the basis for this move.  It is true iPhone is a very popular in medicine, but it’s popularity is usually a personal choice that is not supported by the average hospital IT department.  Again the only areas where I have seen institutions adopt the iPhone as a supported mobile device have been in the academic medial area.  Many regular hospitals still don’t support the iPhone.  In these institutions doctors, nurses, and hospital employees who have iPhones cannot access their own hospital email using the iPhone much less get on to the EMR (if the hospital even has an EMR up and running, there are still a lot out there that don’t). 

Earlier this year when Citrix released an app for the iPhone I asked our IT department if they had any plans to finally allow iPhone users access to institutional email.  I was told by my IT department, “The iPhone is a great personal device, but is not suitable for our institution at this time.” (Yes they did use itallics for personal device.)  The email went on to say that only approved Blackberry devices were allowed access to institutional email.  The IT department either were unaware or completely ignored the fact that many people use this so called personal device in the professional lives.  People use the medical applications on the iPhone to help treat patients or do consult medical references.  Yet it is still considered a personal device by hospital IT departments.  I see more and more doctors using iPhones.  I think their numbers are beginning to rival those of the Blackberry devices, but until the iPhone is accepted as an approved device within the hospital IT department, you will still have medical professional who will forgo the iPhone. 

While Neil sees the popularity and success of the iPhone in medicine illustrating the potential growth for the Mac in the healthcare, I see the the lack of iPhone adoption among hospital IT departments as an indicator of just how hard it will be for Steve Jobs to break into the healthcare industry.  Am I saying it is impossible?  No, and if anybody can do it, Jobs would be that person.  I just see it as a very large uphill battle to convince an institutional IT department so dependent on PCs to accept Apple on a large scale.

4 thoughts on “Apple Expanding Into Healthcare?”

  1. Funny how it doesn’t seem to matter where you work (US or Canada), if there is a hospital IT department involved you can pretty much guarantee irrational policies. Do they mean to tell us that they keep patient records and email on the same servers and this is the reason they are so paranoid of letting staff access email on an iPhone (or other non-BlackBerry device)?

    My hope is that Apple seriously upgrades the security/encryption features on their devices to make IT departments more open.

    At our institution I give out PDA licenses for software at 4 times the rate for iPhone than BlackBerry. I need nothing more to convince me that staff, and physicians especially, are Macs.

  2. MacPractice, Inc. is the leading Apple developer of practice management and clinical solutions for doctors’ offices, clinics, departments and faculty practices. Since its introduction less than 2 years ago, MacPractice EMR has been purchased by 450 practice representing some 1200 providers. FYI, in our 6th year, MacPractice supports a total of 2600 doctors’ offices with more than 17000 users.

    MacPractice released one of the first iPhone applications, MacPractice iPhone Interface, and we are releasing a 2.0 update this week to a handful of users for final testing that facilitates entering patient demographics and posting charges. This can be a very powerful tool particularly for a doctor performing rounds. We also plan for the imminent release of eprescribe capability on the iPhone that interacts with MacPractice’s patient database.

    MacPractice MD and MacPractice EMR are not a hospital enterprise solution, but as we continue to aggressively develop MacPractice EMR/EHR to the evolving standard for “meaningful use” expected to be finalized next spring or sometime thereafter, MacPractice will offer an affordable certified solution suitable for doctor’s practices that leverages Apple’s ease of use and innovative technology.

    Our hope is that state and federal governments and hospitals that purchase enterprise solutions will require that they interface with solutions such as ours that are suitable and affordable for 160,000 small practices.

    Mark Hollis
    President and co-founder, MacPractice, Inc.
    [email protected]

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