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Apple Targets Healthcare Enterprise

by John Moore | March 23, 2010

While the Apple iPhone was first targeted at the general consumer, Apple has been taking the necessary steps to bring this device into the enterprise, directly competing with RIM’s Blackberry.  Unseating the Blackberry in many sectors, such as finance, may be near impossible but healthcare is another story.  Within healthcare, Palm, with its Treo was extremely popular as it was not only a communication device (cell, email, etc.) but also supported other apps such as the very popular Epocrates.  Palm lost its focus, sat on its laurels, the Treo became dated, barriers to entry lowered.  Enter the iPhone, its intuitive interface, a touch screen, an ever increasing number of medical apps and Palm is basically out in the healthcare.

The iPhone was first adopted by physicians independently of the organizations (hospitals) they worked for to do simple communication and access numerous apps that helped them in their day-to-day activities.  Seeing this adoption trend. some of the EMR vendors also started to get on-board offering iPhone access to their app (AllScripts introduced theirs at HIMSS’09). But this adoption, for the most part, remained separate from broader enterprise (hospital) initiatives as early versions of iPhone’s operating system (OS) were simply not enterprise ready.

But this is changing.

Apple’s iPhone OS, which has seen significant improvements since its introduction and now has robust enterprise features, including security ( HIPAA compliance), integration to the ever popular Microsoft Exchange Server (calendar, email, etc.), and an SDK to build apps for internal purposes.

To showcase the iPhone in enterprises, Apple now has a section of their website dedicated to showcasing customer deployments of the iPhone in an enterprise.  Of the 15 enterprise case studies presented, 20% of them are dedicated to the healthcare market; Mt. Sinai in Toronto, Memorial Hermann in Houston and Doylestown Hospital in Pennsylvania. Of all the enterprise verticals to profile, dedicating 20% of case studies to one market, healthcare, signals Apple’s intent to invest in this market.

Common threads in each story:

1) Security features of iPhone OS insure HIPAA compliance.

2) Ability to use Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for email and calendaring features.

3) iPhone’s intuitive interface minimizes training requirements.

4) iPhone is readily portable and can deliver the right information at the right time to the right individual.

5) iPhone’s ecosystem of applications allows a hospital and its clinicians to tap a wide range of applications to customize the iPhone to their particular needs. Many of these apps are free thus not a drain on ever tight IT budgets.

As Hermann Memorial’s CIO, David Bradshaw stated:

Healthcare is a real-time business.

And as we’ve said before:

Health is mobile.

The combination of an ecosystem of relevant applications with enterprise connectivity in a secure, easy to use, mobile construct is the future of healthcare IT, at least for clinicians.  The next step is bridging the divide between clinician and consumer through the use of such technologies. We’re not there yet, but hopefully, Apple is working with a healthcare organization (or at least will uncover one) and present such a case study in the near future.

11 responses to “Apple Targets Healthcare Enterprise”

  1. Michael Jahn says:

    Epocrates is a great example of what Apple is willing to do to be successful in the medical vertical – note that while you can download the free version of Epocrates from the Apple Store, you actually buy the Epocrates Essentials Deluxe from the Epocrates web site – NOT the Apple Store.

    Another interesting example is using an iPhone in conjunction with a ‘private’ hospital or clinic PBX system and Alert system


    These sort of partnerships where Apple allows partners to build their own sandbox is key to success in the enterprise.

    • John says:

      While Apple is making an effort to promote its success in the healthcare space, not sure that it was planned and likely more happenstance. But now that they are seeing some traction, certainly looking to leverage it for all its worth and position themselves as an enterprise play.

      And thanks for bringing to the attention of others, Voalte. Trey and his team are doing good work.

    • Jeff Brandt says:

      Michael, I agree, You have to have direct communication with your customer in order to provide good customer service. Most bad reviews come from misunderstanding or inability for companies to communicate directly with their customers. App developer have no built-in facility to communicate with their customer. This lack of communication forces your design of apps to be very dumb client.

      The other problem is that the App-store is a catch all apps. It is difficult to display an enterprise app next to a iFart machine. One of my clients asked me why he should purchase our app when every “healthcare” app that he had tried before was “Crap”. I gave him a personal money back guarantee. He loved our product.

      Our app motionPHR and Red Ribbon are clients for our enterprise project which connects Smartphones to HealthVault.

      Many of these problems are experience in other stores besides Apple as well. For a business models to be successful in this paradigm , companies must learn how to work around the app stores.

      Jeff Brandt

  2. […] Article John Moore, Chilmark Research, 23 March 2010 SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Apple Targets Healthcare Enterprise", url: "http://articles.icmcc.org/2010/03/23/apple-targets-healthcare-enterprise/" }); […]

  3. Todd Fisher says:

    The demand for iPhone applications that support healthcare, particularly physicians, is squarely in place and growing. I think your perspective is spot on.

    I question the number of truly useful iPhone applications – many exist for the “gee-whiz factor”. But, I can say first hand that demand exists for useful, meaningful healthcare applications, such as simple clinical results viewing for physicians “on the go”.

    In fact, we recently delivered an iPhone application that provides a physician inbox for clinical results for one of our HIE clients. They are already asking for additional features. The mobility, communication, and now the security features have converged to make a great delivery platform for numerous healthcare applications. While it remains to be seen whether the adoption curve is a gentle slope or a hockey stick, it is clear that applications addressing mobility, on the iPhone for example, assists physicians.

    • John says:

      Thanks Todd for chiming in. Interesting to hear that an HIE client of yours is also looking to build out specific iPhone apps to facilitate clinician access to data/medical records on the go.

      Clearly, clinicians will readily adopt a technology if it makes there life easier, the day’s more productive. Certainly a lesson there for the many less than productive applications that exist today in the healthcare sector.

  4. Michelle W says:

    “The iPhone was first adopted by physicians independently of the organizations (hospitals) they worked for ….”

    That’s the real reason for success in any market: consumers make a move based on a want/need they feel in their lives. In this case, physicians wanted info on the go, and found a technology with a moderate to low learning curve that allowed them to do just that. Thus, the market moves to faciliate these consumers and provide even more.

    A word of caution, though, before hospitals buy up iPhones like candy: these physician consumers don’t represent all physicians, and pushing an iPhone on an older and/or antagonistic MD will probably be met with the same resistance as any other technology would. The trick will be to make it appealing to the holdouts, not just those who already use and want it. That will require careful listening and planning, which may be difficult but not impossible: after all, even an ol’ country doctor like Dr. McCoy wouldn’t go anywhere without his tricorder.

    • John says:

      Even older physicians, like the McCoy’s of the world will adopt a technology if it contributes to their quality of life or the quality of their customers (patients). Probably an 80/20 rule in there somewhere where among more senior physicians, 80% will adopt and 20% will remain on sidelines.

  5. Jeff Brandt says:

    Apps by definition are not enterprise but atomic processes. I for one hope that Apple will change their iPhone OS and business practices to embrace the enterprise.

    Apple is going to have to change a lot to enter the enterprise arena. It is not their market. Not to say that they can’t, it is that they never have, and why would they? Their current model is working quite well.

    HealthCare HIT systems are about 98% Microsoft, integration and support of multiple OS can be done but it is costly.

    Most mHealth iPhone apps (native not browser) that are currently on the Appstore are far from enterprise. The iPhone OS is a silo. It is difficult to even get data off of the iPhone. It is a great platform for single tasking apps like Epocrates which is not enterprise.

    Our company has an enterprise system for the iPhone, it is based on communicating via a gateway to Microsoft HealthVault.

    The real problem is that you cannot develop a mission critical product if you cannot control the delivery, encryption and updates… It is also very difficult when the customers are not yours. They are APPLE’s customers.

    In closing I am not a Apple hater, I am typing on a MacBook Pro and have a vested interest in seeing the iPhone succeed in mHealth. Many app developers are afraid to speak out against Apple, fearing retribution, e.g., some apps have been removed because of companies comments on Appstore’s shortcomings. I love Apple!

    Domain experts and users such as doctor and nurses need to make their needs (requirements) known, i.e, that which is needed to complete their job. Request HIT to deliver the best platform to the fill their requirements in a cost effective way.

    The future is mobile and the device you carry today will be totally different from the one you will have in a year or two. Enterprise solutions should not be about the hardware,i.e., phones.

    Jeff Brandt

    • John says:

      As an Apple app developer with real-world experience, Jeff, your comments are particularly insightful, thank you.

      The main gist of this post was to simply point out that Apple is using the healthcare sector as an example of how its products, in this case the iPhone, is suitable in an enterprise environment, one that you correctly point out is dominated by MSFT.

      It remains to be seen how much effort Apple will continue to put into the “enterprise space” as the consumer market continues to do quite well for them. Even the soon to be released iPad will see adoption in healthcare, but the real market for this product is the consumer market. Nothing wrong with that as the consumer market has led innovation in IT (esp usability) for the last several years and will likely continue to do so.

  6. […] has increasingly viewed healthcare as a strong vertical to move on after general consumer. As highlighted in the EMR piece last week […]

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