What does an Apple™ a day really do for the doctor? The medical profession is currently experiencing a surge in the utilization of tablets and smartphones as medical devices. A number of diagnostic programs are being developed exclusively for the medical community and join the phenomenon called mHealth (mobile health).
The medical profession and software companies have identified the potential for mobile-based technology to revolutionize the way that healthcare works. Custom-designed applications range from MobiSante’s smartphone-based ultrasound imaging system, MobiUS SP1 – an ultrasound monitor that can be plugged into an iPhone – to applications that can display medical images for doctors and patients to view on a phone screen, such as Visible Body. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started to officially approve diagnostic medical apps, showing how much momentum the market has gathered.
However, the recent development of a new class of laptops – the ultrabook – could alter the system yet again. Launched onto the market in 2011, ultrabooks are lighter than conventional laptops but with the power and battery life of a PC.
The advantages of ultrabooks over tablets include the increased durability – a laptop’s case will be more durable than the sensitive touchscreen on a tablet. If healthcare professionals are doing outreach – especially in remote locations, from mobile clinics in Africa to outreach among a city’s homeless – the ability of their electronic medical assistant to survive bumps and damage far away from technical support is going to be sorely tested.
Ultrabooks possess greater hard drive capacity than tablets or smartphones, and have the storage space to accommodate larger volumes of specialized software programs. As members of the healthcare industry demand greater functionality, they are likely to desire more gigabytes than the standard smartphone can host.
Compared to mobile-based technology, the security of PCs is stronger. Tablets and smartphones are more vulnerable to hacking by cybercriminals than a lot of people realize. This is an issue that all individuals and companies should keep in mind – but given that patient’s electronic data is most likely going to be accessible to its users via the doctor’s technology, it becomes paramount that confidential information does not fall into the wrong hands. The encryption and security features of computers, and by extension ultrabooks, are much stronger.
Is usurping likely, though? The technology of tablets in some respects is still more advanced than ultrabooks; tablet screens tend to have greater pixel resolution, better for viewing those medical images, and the fact that tablets can operate as touch screens or with keyboards makes them more versatile for medics. In a few years, the best ultrabook available to medical professionals might have all of these features, but the fact that tablets have been around for a couple more years than ultrabooks means that it may be hard to overturn the current accelerating trend.
Regardless of the eventual piece of technology that medical professionals use, it is clear that the healthcare sector is undergoing a lot of change. The future of medical devices is going to be increasingly mobile, streamlined and cutting-edge.