iPads have won the hospital, but Android may win the patients

In wards and doctor's offices, the iPad is becoming a mainstay care device, as Android stakes a spot in patient-facing use

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One MU2 requirement -- with a deadline of May 2014 -- is that 5 percent of patients interact via electronic systems. That's an awfully low bar, but it scares many providers. Thus, you get the patient portals, online appointment scheduling, and ability to reorder prescriptions online. They're the low-hanging fruit of MU2's patient engagement requirements.

Given the shift from desktop PCs to mobile devices, it's become clear to the health care industry that it needs to offer patient portals via mobile devices. At HIMSS, such products and services were everywhere. A few EHR pioneers such as Kaiser Permanente have rolled out mobile access in the last few months, and the major EHR vendors are furiously enabling he in their products; Epic and Cerner again lead here.

But patients use all sorts of devices, not just iPhones and iPads, so these mobile health portals are also designed to work on Android smartphones and tablets -- in fact, on any major browser. Thus, most are HTML apps in native wrappers or simply accessed as a mobile-savvy Web page.

Android may get a more prominent role in another patient-facing area: bedside entertainment and information systems. Several vendors showed touchscreen devices that would hang by a patient bed and provide TV, movies, and other entertainment capabilities as well as a variety of other services, such as making Skype video calls, playing games, and ordering a cup of tea.

Such devices would also be used to engage patients in care areas, such as letting them watch videos on their coming physical therapy -- and tracking whether they indeed watched them as prescribed -- or look up information on their condition or specialist providers. Think of it as a smart TV redefined for in-patient care, not just entertainment.

All the ones I saw were based on Android, an OS that has gained some traction beyond smartphones and tablets for embedded devices. The Google TV effort has faltered, but their variation of the concept could take off.

The sea change in health care platforms

There's clearly a sea change in the core computing platform being used in health care, with iOS largely displacing Windows over the next few years. There's also a sea change in user access to health services and information, one that is following the same heterogeneous trend as the rest of the world, with iOS and Android leading. Android's customizability is also giving it a new life in specialty information devices.

The world of health care is catching up to the world at large. Soon both clinicians and patients will be working with the same tools in health care as they use everywhere else.

This article, "iPads have won the hospital, but Android may win the patients," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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