The iPad and Professionals in the Medical Industry

Last week, we took a hiatus from our series on the iPad and Professionals to focus on the great new apps being released for iOS 7. This week, I’m thrilled to say the feature is back for another few instalments. If you’re new to the series, catch up on our articles about the iPad and professional artists/photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and journalists.

Today, I’m writing about what might be the most exciting field for the iPad. We’re going to take a look at the iPad in the medical industry, particularly with a focus on how practitioners are using it.

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The Obvious Truth

First off, let’s admit that I’m not qualified to write this. For every other article in this series so far, I’ve had some professional experience in the field. I’m a photographer, a former frontman in a relatively successful rock band, a hobbyist screenwriter with professional experience writing commercials, and I do a lot of freelance journalism work. But I’m clearly not a nurse. I haven’t even been to the doctor’s office for half a decade — partially because I’m the “silently sick” type and partially because my immune system seems to be impregnable (knock on wood).

I explain all this because this article is not going to be about the apps I’ve used every day to make my non-existent medical business successful. It’s going to be a portfolio about what the iPad is doing for this tremendously important industry.

Let’s get started.

Point of Care

The first, and I think the most obvious, use for iPads in the medical industry are as point of care (POC) units. Any app that helps bridge the distance between medical practitioner and patient is a must-try for doctors.

POC, if you’re unfamiliar, is defined by Wikipedia as “when clinicians deliver healthcare products and services to patients at the time of care.” In truth, it’s a little more complicated than that when it comes to POC software.

Great POC software must be both a patient tracker/manager and a physician in its own right. This is what makes Apple and the iPad uniquely positioned to make a difference. The iPad is small enough to be taken everywhere, and powerful enough to make some desktop POC software much more widely available to doctors in any situation.

Skyscape makes it easy to access any medical tools a practitioner needs on the go.

Skyscape makes it easy to access any medical tools a practitioner needs on the go.

Apple has featured a POC app called Skyscape in their Making a Difference video. The app is basically a large index of all things medical, from medical calculators and dictionaries to information about pharmaceutical drugs.

Some companies are taking a slightly different route and building their own iPad apps. Apple featured one of these too, doing a profile on RehabCare to talk about how and why the company made their own iOS app. Not unlike Skyscape, RehabCare’s iPad app is all about making taking care of somebody at the POC easier, but because it’s handled by the enterprise itself and not the App Store, it’s easier to roll out updates. (Of course, rolling out updates like that requires a complicated backend. If that sort of thing interests you, the RehabCare profile talks about it a little and it’s a great read.)

Taking It Further

The best software solves problems. It makes it easier to live your day-to-day life. Another app that was mentioned by Apple, Orthocare’s Galileo is making it easier for people with prosthetic legs to get up and get going throughout the day. It’s meant to collect and analyze data from the users’ activities so the clinician can easily make adjustments later. This is Point of Care software that’s always there. It’s the future.

Medscape is a centre for doctors, complete with all the tools they need to help them succeed throughout the day.

Medscape is a centre for doctors, complete with all the tools they need to help them succeed throughout the day.

There’s a whole other part of this category that I’ve been ignoring so far, and that’s the medical dictionary. We all know hypochondriacs. In some ways, we all our hypochondriacs. WebMD for iPad is the easiest way to self-diagnose yourself all the way to the hospital, and it’s free. You could also try out Medscape, also from WebMD.

Apple’s Role In This

It’s easy to say that, beyond building the tool, Apple doesn’t have a role to play with the iPad’s success in the medical industry. But because Apple approves every app before they allow it in the App Store, they’ve put themselves in a unique position where they can’t allow themselves to put out apps with false information. After all, you wouldn’t want an app identifying your symptoms as the flu when it’s appendicitis.

To that end, I was relieved to see Apple is taking some preventative measures to make sure they don’t release inaccurate apps. As iMedicalApps reports, Apple is requesting citations for any medical claims in an app. That makes your job more complicated as a developer, but it’s good to know Apple is keeping regular people’s best interest at heart.

Where We’re Going

There’s no way I’ve even scraped the surface of what’s going on in the medical industry. With iOS, Apple is giving people the power to change lives in devices that fit in their handbags. When doctors can more easily assess their patients, the world becomes a better place.

A lot of people have some fantasies about technology that I think are odd, but one of the ones I absolutely agree with is the revolution portable technologies could cause in the medical industry. A lot of people talk about a word where people no longer get sick because technology is always encouraging them to keep healthy and practically programming them. Although some parts of that are a little disturbing in actual practice, from a theoretical perspective, it’s enchanting. And the iPad is slowly taking us there. I can’t wait to see the medical industry in ten years.