I stumbled across the iPad coming-out party over the Easter weekend while visiting family in Troy, Mich. My wife and I went to the massive Somerset Collection Mall for a two-hour shopping binge (I recently jettisoned my wardrobe, with the exception of what I’m wearing today--fashions have evolved over the past 10 years, so she says) but we got there too early and everywhere was locked down. Except the mall’s Apple Store, which opened at pre-dawn and by 8 a.m. had a crowd of about 300 people waiting somewhat patiently outside. The crowd cheered every time someone emerged and gave their iPad a trophy hoist.

The ground truly is shifting, and the fervor over the iPad is just one indication. Last week I moderated a Web Seminar (http://www.healthdatamanagement.com/web_seminars/-39910-1.html) that included an extremely timely presentation from Chris Wadsen, managing director of the Strategy & Innovation practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

As Chris sees it, mobile technology will transform this market more than any other technology on the market.

The device pushing the market right now is the iPhone--nearly 30 percent of physicians have one (and 60 percent have some type of smart phone); more than 2,200 iPhone medical applications are now available, an increase of 300 percent since April 2009.

But Chris summed up the current state of mobile health with a quote from the writer William Gibson: “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.” The applications and devices are in place, but what’s lacking is coordination by vendors and I.T. leaders to create a plug-and-play infrastructure and truly support a transition to mobile physician-to-patient health care by linking physicians to EHRs to devices to homes to consumers, etc.

A key question posed by Chris to the industry: Are you placing the patient (as opposed to the provider, product, physician or payer) at the nexus of all technology solutions through mobile health medicine?

Last year I interviewed users of Allscripts Remote, an iPhone app that lets physicians tap into an EHR system to e-prescribe, schedule, dictate notes via speech recognition, etc. I’ve written a lot about health care mobility, but what made this an interesting assignment was how excited these docs were … as excited as a kid I saw in the mall watching a movie on the iPad he bought 10 minutes before. And that’s for a clinical app that provides pretty standard functionality (but provides it extremely well, by all accounts).

There’s a lot of good mobile health apps out there (not just for iPhones) but there seems to be a lack of resolve on the part of provider organizations to get them out to clinicians.

Maybe it’s reluctance to take a chance on unknown mobile app vendors, since a lot of the innovation seems to be driven by start-ups. Maybe it’s just too hard to connect all the dots. Our contributing editor, Elizabeth Gardner, wrote a terrific story about a doc’s use of an iPhone--and the technological frustrations/limitations he faces on a daily basis—that you should read, www.healthdatamanagement.com/issues/18_3/pocket-ekg-39836-1.html.

So tell me, what’s the mobile hold-up over at your place? Or better yet, tell me why there isn’t one. Hopefully I can use this space to share stories on organizations really moving forward with mobile health as well as point out the potential potholes for anyone contemplating taking a dive into the market.

On a personal note, during this same shopping trip, my wife said she wanted to look at shoes, so I of course ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I happened across an AT&T store (yeah, Somerset is quite the mall) and went in to see if I could upgrade to an iPhone from the cantankerous cell phone I’ve been using for years. The cell phone could do everything—text, Web surf, take pictures, check e-mail—but was so poorly designed that I could do none of those things without a manual in hand.

Fifteen minutes later I had an iPhone. I checked e-mail. Took a picture of the kids and shot it off to my mother-in-law. Created a voice message and sent it to my wife in an e-mail. I checked the weather and then the real-time traffic for our drive back to Chicago.

I’m really not a shill for Apple. I’m just excited.

 

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