Will hype for iPad in healthcare translate into benefits for pharmacy?

Unless you’ve been comatose for a while, you’ve certainly heard about the Apple iPad. The device has already been crowned the de facto device for everything from e-reading to creating a new wave in healthcare unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Of course this is all speculation as the device hasn’t been officially released yet.

Many people have speculated that the iPad will be a great device for healthcare. Whether or not that will be the case remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: everyone is banking on the iPad being a big hit in healthcare. Based on the success of the iPhone as a favorite among physicians and nurses, this certainly isn’t a wild prediction. Will this success translate to the pharmacy? Good question.

The iPhone made an impact with pharmacists, but certainly several orders of magnitude less than it did for other healthcare professionals. I have no explanation for why physicians and nurses universally accepted the iPhone while pharmacists did not, but that appears to be the case. With that said, the pharmacists at my facility appear to have a healthy interest in the iPad. I informed them about a week or so ago that the department was in the process of purchasing some new tablets for use on the floor. Would you like to guess what the first questions I was asked was? Yep, “are we getting the new Apple device?” That’s a positive sign as most of the time the pharmacists I work with could care less about what technology they’re using.

Being practical for a moment, let’s consider some things:

1) The iPad will provide a similar experience to the iPhone, with one major exception: it’s not a phone. The popularity of the iPhone lies with its ability to fit in your pocket. Cell phones are akin to car keys nowadays; they’re always with you. Even though it is a fascinating device, the iPad is not pocketable.

2) The iPad cannot run native Windows based applications directly installed on the device. Of course one can always use something like Citrix to access applications, or products offered as SaaS, so that isn’t a game changer. In fact, I’m a big proponent of moving away from locally installed applications. Maybe this is a positive. I haven’t decided yet.

3) Data entry will be difficult on the touch screen. As much as I like touchscreen devices, they really aren’t designed for typing. On the other hand, keyboards tend to work well for data entry. Go figure.

4) No multitasking. Hmm, that could be a problem for a pharmacist when they need to access multiple applications at once.

5) Application development. Apple controls the flow of applications. How’s that going to work if healthcare is serious about utilizing the device?

6) Ports are missing. This could be important for peripherals and compatibility with other devices in the hospital.

7) The iPad is an entertainment device. Let’s face it, this tablet was designed to fill a niche in the consumer market, which means some tweaks will be necessary to integrate it into healthcare.

Only time will tell if pharmacists will embrace the iPad, but as I’ve mentioned before, the height of pharmacy interest in technology was brought on by a consumer electronic device. I’m cautiously optimistic that the iPad will do the same and I’m looking forward to putting my skepticism to the test.

Oh and one more thing:  when I asked the director of our IT department in charge of computer hardware when I could expect our new tablets, he asked me if we would be willing to try the iPad instead. Unbelievable.

4 thoughts on “Will hype for iPad in healthcare translate into benefits for pharmacy?”

  1. I think the iPad could be a real technology win for medicine. I can imagine an application that acts as a dashboard to the things that are important to you. I have a TON of ideas on the subject and honestly believe there’s a market just waiting to explode.

  2. Even though I personally think Apple iAnythings are no-brainers (I have them all) I wonder if pharmacists inclination toward the left brain has anything to do with them not adopting the iPhone to the same extent as nurses and physicians. Then again, maybe physicians and nurses are as or more left brained than pharmacists. What do I know. I’m hopelessly right brained. I would suggest, that the physicians, pharmacists, and nurses that seem to be getting most of the blog read these days tend to think more right than left brain.

  3. Bring ’em on, bro. I can see lots of potential in the iPad. Anything that gets pharmacists interested in technology is a good thing.

  4. Yeah, I’m with you in terms of Apple products. I am guilty of owning several Mac computers, a laptop and, <cough>, eight iPods of various configurations. I can’t help myself. I don’t know if the iPad technology is anything earth shattering, but the general interest from pharmacists is promising.

    Here’s a little test to help you figure out the problem you’re having with your brain: http://j.mp/1oc7uh

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