Friday, September 12, 2008

Cool Technology of the Week

In the past, I've been called an Apple fanboy, despite the fact that I declared in a recent blog that the iPhone 3G is not a perfect device.

At Harvard Medical School, we've been evaluating mobile devices for education and clinical care. From our early surveys, it's clear that Palm OS is dying, Windows Mobile Smartphones are fading, and that iPhone and Blackberry are the smartphones of choice.

The iPhone has two downsides - you have to use AT&T, meaning that you may have to switch networks just to get an iPhone. Also, they keyboard does not lend itself to high volume email input.

We have publicly available WiFi throughout the medical school and throughout the HMS affiliate hospitals. This gives us an interesting possibility for the mobile clinical data viewing and educational device of the future - the iPod Touch, which is my Cool Technology of the Week.

You may think I'm going out on a limb, declaring the iPod Touch a game changing device, but I have my reasons.

1. The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone 3G without the need for an expensive AT&T 2G/3G phone/data plan. The applications are the same (everying at the AppStore including ePocrates), the email functionality is the same, and the user interface is the same. This means that anyone can use all the application functionality of an iPhone 3G without any connectivity cost by just buying an iPod Touch and using WiFi.

2. The web browsing, media management, and content viewing of the iPod Touch are remarkable. My complaint with the iPhone - the challenging keyboard for entry - becomes less of an issue if you're using the device for viewing data, webpages, and media.

3. Students have declared that they are no longer buying Palm OS or Windows devices. The iPhone and the iPod are their multimedia devices of choice.

4. We've prototyped using several of our web-based applications on the iPod Touch. They work perfectly as long as they do not require significant typing/data input.

5. The form factor of the device fits in a white coat pocket, weighs under a pound and the battery life lasts a shift.

Thus, I believe the iPod Touch is a device to watch for clinical and educational applications. I suspect it will be used in many novel ways in healthcare and not just for as a glorified music player.


e-Patient Dave said...

Dude - that's so cool - that's MY iPod! Gloat gloat gloat!

Ken said...

I'm an iphone user and a clinician. Would love to hear what apps people are finding useful. Epocrates gets used daily. Are there others? Anyone found good dose calculator app?

Trey said...


I have seen use of Eponyms, Medical Calc, and Mediquations. MIM Vista looks promising, but you need the back end software.


Stu Parker said...

Dr Halamka...I also own an IPOD touch. I would love for apple to be able to make it so its not WI-FI needy. Anyhoo I love it because I also have a ton of music on it. If you have a chance I also have a blog on here as well. Check it out. I am going to update it again this weekend!!

ian connor said...

There is also pubget mobile. The PDF viewer in the iphone and ipod, make searching pubmed data very nice.
(or insert your institution into the URL as needed Harvard, MGH, UCSF, etc)

e-Patient Dave said...

Ted Eytan commented via trackback. (He just got an excellent new job at Permanente Foundation, btw. I say, he's a right-minded mover/shaker.)

Jonathan Merrill said...

I am fairly surprised at your position. It doesn't concern you that the iPhone runs as root? That the biggest security flaws for phone hijacking has involved BlueTooth?

Not to mention that BlackBerry's service on the whole isn't consistent without the use of BES?

I am amazed that Windows Mobile is discounted so quickly.

I personally warn our physicians against iPhone currently, till they serious reconsider their security profile.

Brent Thompson, PhD, RN said...

At my university we used to recommend the Palm for incoming students. Starting in the spring we will moving to the iPod Touch. At $229 it is light years ahead in usability and value. All the reference title publishers I've spoken to claim that titles will be available by the end of 2008. I started a blog at to discuss the value to healthcare and review software.

There are not a lot of titles yet, but there are already some very useful apps for free or low cost.

John Halamka said...

Folks - thanks for these great comments. It's clear that the iPhone and iPod Touch are hot topics. Regarding security risks, this blog post gives us an update about the current way iPhone/iPod apps are run.

M said...

I know I'm late on this topic but here goes...I originally purchased my iPod Touch to listen to music and watch movies during my commute. It wasn’t until I tried it at work that I realized its full potential. In addition to having my personal email accounts synced to it, I also have my work (Exchange) email, contacts and calendar too. When at work I’ve had no problem hooking corporate wi-fi. When I’m at home I’m still able to connect to work via Cisco VPN using my RSA secureID and password.

Favorite app so far is WinAdmin ($12 from the App store) but worth every penny. It allows me to remote any of my pc’s or servers. It uses the MS remote desktop protocol. In fact, sitting in my home office, I used this technique to hook into a Live Meeting. More importantly it allows me to gain access to servers and MS SQL where I didn’t have access before.

Another useful tool from the App store is MobileFinder and IM+. And then for personal apps I like Sportacular, Tiny Freecell and Sudoku.

Sachi said...

Here's another link that provides great iPhone uses

Danny said...

I'm a nurse with an iPAQ equipped with Nurses Central; I use the drug guide and lab modules regularly.

I also own an IPod Touch with the Epocrates drug guide. While I wouldn't mind using the IPod, I can enter text MUCH faster with the stylus (writing it out, not using the keyboard). I tend to fat-finger the IPod's virtual keyboard, requiring more corrections, and shifting back and forth for numbers and special characters slows me further. I'm still practicing, but for now, I prefer the iPAQ.

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