Meanwhile, rumor has it Apple is gearing up to release a new version of its iPad, which plays a vital role in its enterprise health efforts.
Garry James, 60, is perched on the edge of his hospital bed, temporarily unhooked from monitors that track his vital signs. It’s his third week waiting for a heart transplant, a nerve-wracking process that can stretch out months or even years, but he greets me with a wide smile.
“I’m an Android guy,” says James, while clutching the iPad that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles gave him when he was admitted into the hospital. Unlike some of the more senior patients on the ward, he got up to speed with the technology in no time. “My son, who is 10, knew exactly what to do,” James says. These days, James uses the iPad to message his nurses, order magazines, make notes, browse medication side effects, reserve lodging for his family when they visit from Las Vegas, and review his medical record.
The device has helped him feel more in control of his own care. “I want to have an intelligent conversation with my doctor,” James says. “Just enough to be guided on the right path.”
An iPad might not seem revolutionary in the internet age, but it’s actually a big step forward for patients to have digital health information at their fingertips. Many doctors, like Cedars-Sinai’s Shaun Miller, remember a time even five years ago, when many processes were still paper-based and medical information sat in silos. It took a $35 billion investment from the federal government back in 2009 with the HITECH Act to kick-start the process to digitize health data. Even today, many patients still receive their health data on a USB stick or CD-ROM, making the shift to mobile at some hospitals truly cutting-edge.
A major reason that hospitals across the United States have been notoriously slow to adopt mobile and consumer technologies relative to other sectors, like finance and retail, is that many are still tied to on-premises enterprise software. “Health care has been the last bastion for (apps with) design principles, mobility, and a clean, compelling consumer experience to infiltrate,” says Sterling Lanier, CEO of Tonic Health, an app that collects medical data. It has also been a challenge to get doctors and other health professionals on the same page. As the associate chief medical officer, it’s Miller’s job to help convince doctors to change their processes. It’s only recently that the majority of fellow physicians have fully adapted to the shift away from clipboards, fax machines, and pagers. “A lot of it has been resistance to change,” Miller tells me. Changing the way their work is done “can feel scary” to some medical professionals, Miller says.
Meanwhile, patients seem to have adapted quickly to the changes, as many already use mobile devices in their daily lives. James pulls up a page with all of his prescriptions, and clicks on each to review possible side effects. If he has any concerns, he can send a direct message to a specific person on his specific care team and get a response in minutes, rather than pressing a button for any on-call nurse to show up. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he says.