Why Apple’s iPad will beat Android tablets for hospital use

Earlier this week, one of our senior editors, Felasfa Wodajo, published a fantastic piece stating why Android tablets will beat the iPad for hospital use. His piece received significant comments, with people both agreeing and disagreeing.

Although I agree with many of his views about how medical apps will be consumed in the future, I respectfully disagree with his overall assertion.

The Apple iPad will beat Android tablets for hospital use because of four key reasons:

1) The iPad’s head start — Apple basically creating the “new tablet” category
2) Apple’s and enterprise — their interest in medical use
3) Lack of fragmentation
4) Massive quantities of data on how to utilize the iPad in a hospital setting — the most important reason

First, I want to say I agree with Felasfa’s assertion that medical apps in a hospital setting will be home grown. This strikes down the argument many make for the iOS (iPhone & iPad) platform’s superior app community compared to Android. No matter how much more vibrant the iPad’s medical app ecosystem is when compared to Android, this will not affect how hospital systems decide to use tablets. Hospitals will decide to make home grown apps or customized apps, and the utility of these apps will be their ability to be seamlessly interwoven into the EMR system.

The iPad’s head start

The first iPhone 2G was released in July, 2007 — and it revolutionized the mobile ecosystem. Ever since, phone manufacturers have been playing catch up. Only with the release of the HTC Evo, released in June 2010, did we see an Android product that compared favorably against the iPhone. It took almost 3 years for competitors to catch up.

This is the same paradigm tablet makers currently face, and it would not be surprising for the same timeline to been seen. Although the Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom show promise, they are not up to par with Apple’s iPad 2 from a hardware standpoint. Sure, they might have a higher megapixel camera, but would you rather have a faster and thinner tablet, with a longer battery life, or a point and shoot camera tablet?

The most important part of the iPad’s head start is the sheer number of tablets sold. Over 15 million units in less than a year. The Android Galaxy Tab, considered the most successful Android tablet, hasn’t even sold 2 million units yet, and their sales numbers have fallen under recent scrutiny for being inflated. The volume of iPads sold has created a legion of users who already know how to use Apple’s operating system. To expound on this, the argument that Apple’s iPad has essentially the same operating system as the iPhone and iPod Touch is actually seen as an advantage in regards to medical professionals. In healthcare, many view technology as a hindrance due to the learning curve it requires — the iPad significantly reduces the learning curve due to the operating systems ubiquitous nature.

Learning Android’s tablet operating system, Honeycomb, would be a significant learning curve for health care professionals, not mention they would be required to learn the electronic medical record (EMR) as well. Hospital administrators could soften the blow of learning a new EMR by at least providing a familiar ecosystem for users.

Apple and Enterprise

Contrary to their history, Apple has shown an interest in Enterprise solutions, and Fortune 500 companies are taking note. In Apple’s 4.0 release of their operating system, they specifically built in enterprise features for the iPad. In their keynote speech for the iPad 2, Apple featured a video showing how many industries were using the iPad for business, even specifically mentioning its medical uses — by showing its use for patient education and EMR in the hospital setting.

Furthermore, Apple has already collaborated with hospitals to help integrate the iPad into the clinical workflow. The University of Chicago’s internal medicine residents use the iPad in the hospital setting to improve their workflow, using it to chart patient data, and for patient education. When a University of Chicago resident e-mailed Steve Jobs telling him of how the residency program was using the iPad in the hospital, Apple executives came to the University hospital and offered assistance — Clearly showing Apple is paying attention [refer to below embedded video].

In regards to making home grown apps, medical institutions are already doing this. The medical college of Georgia has made a suit of applications for their health science graduate students, ranging from medical calculators to medical reference tools.

Anti-Fragmentation

The second greatest reason why Android is destined to fail in the hospital setting is because of fragmentation issues. This has been a key reason why it has taken many medical app developers, such as Epocrates and Medscape, so much time to transition to the Android platform. And if you look in the comments section of our Medscape review, you’ll see that users are still having issues with various types of Android phones and operating systems.

Android is open, yes — but the same openness that has enabled it to pass Apple’s iPhone in market share is also the reason why it’s not a good option for hospital and enterprise systems. If a hospital system wants to upgrade their Android tablets with new hardware, how sure can they be that their customized apps will work? Or, will the new Android platform they upgrade to even work with their existing hardware?

This is not the case for Apple — where iOS apps seamlessly integrate on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

Data — The most important reason

The most important reason the iPad will beat Android tablets for hospital use is because of the current state of iPads in hospital systems, there are numerous pilot studies and current examples to point to — the data that will be released from these example can not be understated.

Along with the already mentioned example of the iPad use in the hospital setting — the University of Chicago’s Internal Medicine Residency Program — there are numerous examples that we have covered in the past:

* Ottawa Hospital has deployed more than 1,000 iPads to physicians and health care providers in their hospital system

* California Hospital piloting more than 100 iPads for hospital use

* Kaiser Permanente experimenting with iPad use for hospital and clinical workflow

* Australian’s state government launches $500,000 pilot program to use the iPad in the hospital setting

* Cedars-Sinai Medical Center experimenting with the iPad in the hospital wards

Moreover, there are numerous examples of the iPad being used for medical students. The following are medical schools that have given their first year medical students iPads, and in the process transformed their curriculum to mobile form: Stanford, UC-Irvine, and USF. This list will only increase. iMedicalApps has received e-mails from educators at other medical schools who are considering having a paperless, mobile medical curriculum, and want to use the iPad to accomplish this.

All this adoption and testing of the iPad in the hospital setting further separates it from Android and other platforms. The iPad has not been released for a full year, and yet these pilot studies and full implementations of the iPad in the medical field have been in full effect.

These case studies of the iPad will produce crucial data for other hospital administrators considering deploying tablets in the hospital setting. Administrators will have access to a wide range of data, from small to large hospital system use of the iPad — something they won’t have for Android tablets.

Conclusion:

The iPad’s head start on the tablet category, their improved Enterprise solutions, lack of fragmentation, and the pending data that will be released from the iPad’s integration in current hospital settings are the four key reasons why Apple has a chance to be the de facto hospital tablet.