Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The iPad and Healthcare--The Future Must Be Fun and Cool

Everybody knows that the iPad--which will be available to consumers this coming Saturday--is going to be a big deal. But various seers and sages are now starting to think about how it will affect their industry, including the healthcare industry. All of us who have been to the doctor's office and filled out the same information, two or three times, even during the same visit know how great it would be if there was the equivalent of an electronic clipboard, in which all that information would go. Not just for the convenience, but also for the life-saving power of good information. What allergies? What prescriptions? What medical history? One hates to think that lives are being lost because of poor handwriting, or because the wrong box was checked, or because the paper was misfiled, or because a fatigued--or lazy--doctor or nurse didn't go through every last page of a fat file.

And yet a tablet computer, by itself, is not the answer--we've had those for years, and they have had no great impact, on healthcare, or anything else. To be effective, the tablet has to be fully functional, of course, but it also must be cool and fun. And that means, among other factors, that it needs to be connected to the Internet, and not just the Internet, but also the Cloud. The Cloud being the more specific area of interactivity: not just e-mail and Google, but specific information, specific computations, specific feedback.

So it was noteworthy that Marc Benioff, the chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, writing in TechCrunch, took so much time to sing the praises of the iPad:

The future of our industry now looks totally different than the past. It looks like a sheet of paper, and it’s called the iPad. It’s not about typing or clicking; it’s about touching. It’s not about text, or even animation, it’s about video. It’s not about a local disk, or even a desktop, it’s about the cloud. It’s not about pulling information; it’s about push. It’s not about repurposing old software, it’s about writing everything from scratch (because you want to take advantage of the awesome potential of the new computers and the new cloud—and because you have to reach this pinnacle). Finally, the industry is fun again.

It's important to understand that Benioff is not some fanboy. His company, Salesforce.com is a major player in the fast-growing field of software-as-a-service, which comes, of course, from the Cloud. Here's more of what Benioff has to say about the iPad and healthcare:

What’s most exciting is that this fundamental transformation—cloud + social + iPad—will inspire a new generation of wildly innovative new apps that will change entire industries. Take health. We have all been waiting for the health application that will revolutionize how we share and communicate with our doctors, and help us make better health care decisions. The apps we have seen as first generation EHR/PHR just have not cut it, and now with ObamaCare there is no killer app to accelerate through the new EHR reimbursement program. The shift ignited by the iPad will allow the proliferation of these new missing apps, and automate the industries and professionals left behind by the last generation of technology. Now, no industry will be left behind.

Benioff, of course, would stand to benefit from a transformational iPad, because then his software, which exists in the cloud, will all the more valuable. That is, if everyone is walking around with an iPad, including in doctors' offices and hospitals, then there will be the virtual equivalent of a mainframe up in the cloud somewhere, and Benioff hopes to sell--more accurately, rent--some of that cloud to each iPad user.

Let's hope it works out for him, and all the other entrepreneurs who wish to improve healthcare. They are the ones who will genuinely reform the system. They will make it better and cheaper, both. They will also make it cool, and even fun.


  1. Simply put, my boots are cemented in the sand as an Apple customer. You just have to recognize that Apple software as we have seen for years syncs with Apple devices in the most symbiotic fashion. I am not however prone to purchase the in between products and necessarily get worked up by virtue of the corporation simply coming out with something deemed new and exciting. I am enamored of my I phone, it is the perfect size for me and I credit it with elevating my cachet in my Internet writing business.I understand the possibility of using the Ipad for mass computerization in the medical industry in which case consumer dimensional objections would not apply. The idea of huge amounts of medical data being filed electronically by the federal government and unrelated medical providers is questionable.There are many classes of illnesses, sexual orientation, addictions that really in the stigmatizing society that we reside in that should be sewed in a little more. Not all medical doctors and workers can be definitively characterized as consistent rule followers.