With the announcement of the Apple iPad today it took a matter of minutes before the first recommended use at my hospital was made. After the announcement there were numerous comments around the Internet about the disappointing nature of the hardware, lack of multi-tasking, no SD-Card support, and on and on and on. Instead of picking apart the finer details of what Apple did or did not include in its latest consumer platform, I am looking at it from a different angle and propose three questions for my fellow CIO’s.
1. Are you ready for another consumer platform that runs interactive applications that dive into your clinical data?
The iPhone was the first sustainable platform, outside of a laptop, where physicians bought the hardware themselves and came to Information Systems asking to “connect”. The connection for us is to applications like the Allscripts iPhone app that ties to our ambulatory EMR. What Apple is presenting is a continuation of a consumer platform that is expected to “do everything” including access to your clinical systems. This can be accomplished by a vendor writing the iPhone app themselves, or serving up applications via a delivery product like Citrix Receiver.
The key here is the physicians are buying their own end user devices, beyond a laptop, and asking you to open access to your systems. Are you ready for that? This takes a different strategy and conversation than a laptop connecting.
2. Are you ready to take responsibility for keeping data secure on devices you don’t own, like the iPad?
This is an ongoing pressure point for many of us and clearly not a new question. Whether it is a laptop, iPhone, Droid or the new iPad we all know that securing emails, and clinical data is difficult but required. The real pressure point that I foresee is the acceleration of non-owned devices connecting and accessing email and sensitive clinical information.
This will be a balance of your hospital being easy to deal with, from a physician perspective, and keeping your security policies tight.
3. Are you brave enough to support it or even ADOPT it?
Almost every CIO I talk to they have been through the device carousel. The ongoing struggle with adopting “just the right device”, which doesn’t exist, creates support nightmares, cost issues and end user frustration. In my own hospital we have gone through four revisions of computers on wheels and two types of tablets. So is the iPad something that we will adopt / support?
It is too early for me to tell – We are always looking for “fit” between functionality, supportability and cost. It might be a good platform for anesthesiologists, social workers, and other somewhat mobile hospital team members who don’t have to do a lot of typing. I can tell you that we will purchase and test the iPad in our environment and have a strategy to support it.
As a suggestion to Apple, I would ask that they NEVER include a camera, the beef up the encryption, and always allow synchronizing to corporate networks via Exchange including remote wipe capability. As a suggestion to my fellow CIO’s – this isn’t the panacea that we all have been waiting for, but you should consider supporting it. It is only a matter of time before a physician asks about it…. (I’m sure most of you have already heard from them…..)