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7 Winning Tips for Medical Equipment Makers

The decision by the health-care division of {complink 8019|General Electric Co.} to develop Centricity Advance-Mobile, a native Apple iPad application for primary care physicians in small practices, says something about the attractiveness of the tablet PC in the health market.

Essentially, Centricity Advance-Mobile allows doctors to access GE's electronic medical record and practice management system via their iPads.

Mike Friguletto, vice president and general manager of GE Healthcare IT's Clinical Business Solutions, explained in an interview why the company has focused exclusively on the iPad over other tablets. “The market demand for the iPad by physicians was greatest,” he said. “GE Healthcare does not currently have plans to expand Centricity Advance-Mobile into other mobile devices, but we will consider this as market demand evolves.”

The use of mobile devices in health care is evolving. As more providers use the devices to administer care at the point of care, OEMs need to consider what works in this environment before they pitch their products to this market. Undoubtedly, the iPad, with its fast A5 dual-core processor, two cameras, and superb graphics, can help doctors exchange and share a patient's records, as well as medical images such as CT scans, X-rays, and ultrasound scans. Furthermore, the iPad 2 is thin (8.8mm) and light (1.3 pounds), which makes it easy for doctors to carry around.

The suitability of a mobile device in a medical setting was also on the minds of developers at {complink 12926|Motorola Solutions Inc.} when they developed its health-care mobile computers, which are small enough to fit in a doctor's lab coat and can be used to capture and transmit virtually any type of data electronically from a patient’s bedside. The devices offer push-to-talk communications and can be sanitized with common medical disinfectants to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease — another important factor when offering mobile devices for use in a health-care setting.

This month, {complink 9171|Frost & Sullivan} released a white paper entitled “Mobile Devices and Healthcare: What’s New, What Fits, and How Do You Decide?” The document examined “the strengths and drawbacks of four major mobile device types — smartphones, tablets, push-to-talk communication devices, and machine-to-machine (M2M) remote medical monitoring devices.” Frost & Sullivan offered several suggestions on what hospital IT administrators should look for when selecting mobile devices. OEMs can learn from these suggestions, too:

  • Functionality
  • . From quick, basic voice communications to sophisticated data software applications, there's a wireless device that can meet your needs. The challenge is to clearly define your mobile communications requirements, projecting out over the next three to five years if possible.

  • Usability
  • . The device can provide all the functionality you need; however, if your care providers and staff don't find it easy and natural to use and carry, the device has no value. The simplicity of push-to-talk, the pocket-size portability and light weight of smartphones and the seven-inch tablets [and] the automatic capture and communication capabilities of small, compact M2M/connected devices [show that] ergonomics done well result in devices that even your most technophobic personnel will find acceptable.

  • Security
  • . Government and industry regulations concerning the privacy and security of patient information dictate enterprise-level security mechanisms.

  • Network connectivity
  • . Define the type of wireless networks your users will have available to them. What type of network connectivity must the wireless device be able to provide — cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile broadband? Test the device across a wide range of locations and signal strengths in order to identify any vulnerabilities.

  • Durability
  • . It is a fact of life: In health-care environments, devices are going to inevitably be dropped, are going to fall off surfaces, and are going to be regularly disinfected. If your wireless device is not already ruggedized, an aftermarket casing may suffice.

  • Applications availability
  • . If there are few prepackaged software applications available for a particular form factor or operating system — or an inordinate amount of approval barriers through which in-house developers must jump — you will not be able to optimize the value of your device.

  • Price
  • . Cost remains a major barrier to implementation. Often, however, the purchaser of a wireless device can obtain a better price by signing up for a long-term service contract.

13 comments on “7 Winning Tips for Medical Equipment Makers

  1. _hm
    August 16, 2011

    iPADs may be ubiquitous device for Physicians. However, patients data is more important. If the same device is used for dual purpose – medical and entertainment – data security will be  biggest concern. How GE will circumvent this risk?

  2. Ariella
    August 16, 2011

    I like the term, “ruggedized.” As the casing could do the trick, perhaps there will also be a market for cases that can be sterilized, to keep the devices germ free.

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    August 16, 2011

    GE weighing in on the side of Apple is a big  deal. Aside from that, tablets make a lot of sense in the medical industry. I hope developers solve the security issues with data transfer–it will take just one hack of medical files to set the market back. Then again, that's already happened with mainframes and nodoy is suggesting we stop buying them…

  4. AnalyzeThis
    August 16, 2011

    Nicole, these are some good tips… and I do believe that a tablet-type device will someday become common in the higher-end hospitals, but this device will not be manufactured by Apple.

    Apple makes great consumer products and mediocre (at best) enterprise products. And when it comes to hospitals in particular, “mediocre” is not going to cut it when lives are possibly at stake and security absolutely cannot be compromised.

    Anyhow, again, I do believe that someday a device that follows these 7 guidelines will exist… but that device is not the iPad.

  5. Daniel
    August 17, 2011

    Nicole, most of the companies like GE, Hitachi, Dell etc has their own EHR data base. But the problem is all these databases are physically connected with the affiliated hospitals desktop or laptop. One of the reasons for such physical connection is security concern and to avoid misuse of one’s health related issues.

    Smart phone apps to monitor the health record through smart devices are a good idea, but it has lot of issues. The main issues is connectivity, if the record consists of scanned documents or digital X rays, it required a seamless connectivity with a higher data transfer speed, in order to get load in smart phone. Otherwise the application has to limit only to get the prescribed medicines list or diagnostic reports, which are light weighted.

  6. jbond
    August 17, 2011

    I think overall this is a great idea to have mobile access to certain information. I think Motorola Mobility has a great product, particularly allowing the device to be sanitized. There are going to be issues relating to data transfer; like privacy and connection speeds. Slower connections mean longer wait times or limits on what can be viewed. I believe companies will make an effort to follow these seven tips and we will start seeing more tablets and handhelds in hospitals and doctors’ offices. I am surprised that GE joined with Apple, even though the demand was there, mostly based on hype by doctors preferring the more popular Ipads than a better suited rival. I think GE will be better served by creating a program to be run on multiple tablets rather than exclusively on Ipads.

  7. The Source
    August 17, 2011

    DennisQ,  

    When Apple developed the iPad it did not do so with the aim of developing a mobile health device.  The iPad’s popularity among consumers in general has spilled over into the healthcare sector.   You may now find that any improvements to the iPad will further enable physicians to do their jobs better, and while other OEMs will develop mobile devices specifically for the healthcare space in the future, the iPad may remain a fixture in the healthcare sector.  Mobile devices for this vertical are still evolving, and so we will see what happens in the next three to five years.

    Thanks for reading this commentary and for responding to my post.

    Nicole

  8. The Source
    August 17, 2011

    jbond ,

    Your points are well taken.  GE Healthcare simply saw the great demand for the iPad among physicians and that went a far way in influencing their decision.  They have not closed the door to other mobile devices, but in business you go with what is most popular and tailor your product to the demands among your target audience.  With regard to security, this is an overriding concern in healthcare.  Hospitals can pay a lot of money when there are breaches of private patients’ health information.    Here’s a story on one incident: http://informationweek.com/news/healthcare/security-privacy/231001236?queryText=UCLA

    Thanks for reading and responding to my story.

    Nicole

  9. The Source
    August 17, 2011

    Dear Ariella ,

    The importance of developing mobile devices that will be used in a healthcare setting and can be sanitized is often overlooked.  It seems to me companies often focus more on providing device that access, input and exchange data. OEM’s need to consider a lot of variables as they develop their products for a healthcare market that has a variety of needs.

    Thanks for reading and responding to my article.

    Nicole   

  10. AnalyzeThis
    August 17, 2011

    @The Source, I get what you're saying and I agree software can be used to improve the usability of the iPad for healthcare professionals, but the reasons why the iPad doesn't have a chance of being a viable force in the healthcare industry isn't just due to the software: it has more to do with the hardware and Apple's company policies.

    For a tablet device to succeed in this sector, it's going to have to be more than just a consumer tablet with different software installed on it: most significantly, the security and durability requirements are far higher. And this device would need to be designed to meet the specific requirements of physicians so many of the things the iPad does would be irrelevant anyhow.

    Again, the iPad is a great consumer product. But especially given the numerous Apple security scandals, would you trust an iPad with your life? I certainly wouldn't…

  11. SunitaT
    August 18, 2011

    Nicole,

     Thanks for the article. You have highlighted some of the key points which should be kept in mind while selecting  mobile devices. I think one more important aspect we should keep in mind is the device shouldn't interefere with the medical devices. Most of these mobile devices use RF signals and this shouldn't interefere with the medical devices.

  12. prabhakar_deosthali
    August 22, 2011

    To have better seurity on the healthcare data that gets downloaded onto a mobile device is to automatically destroy it as soon as the browser session expires. Aprt from the secure connections to download data , we also need secure browsers which will make the downloaded data files invisible so that they cannot be copied or forwarded in emails or transferred over Bluetooth or such connections. Then and then only the privacy and scurity of this sensitive information can be guaranteed.

    Like in the old days the secret services used to communicate messages with a tag “your eyes only”. Such messages would be destryed by the reader after he/she memorised the contents.

  13. JADEN
    August 31, 2011

    Securing mobile devices in healthcare is very important because the technology is not without risks and just as it offers faster access to information, it can also open new ways for the information to be compromised.

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