Apple made waves in the healthcare market with the launch of its iPad a couple of years ago. The portable, easy to use device appealed to doctors and healthcare execs owing to its scope for developing healthcare specific apps and its complete portability. Since its launch, the iPad Mini, the Galaxy Tab and the Kindle to name just a few have also jumped on board the healthcare bandwagon, after recognizing the growth of EHR, telehealth and mHealth. The latest competitor to enter the market is Microsoft, with its Surface and Surface Pro tablets.
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To date, the Surface and Surface Pro have had mixed reviews from consumers, however Microsoft is confident that the devices will appeal to professional and business audiences, specifically those within the healthcare industry. The launch of its Windows 8 interface also gives the corporation hope, with it already gaining positive feedback from business users; the suite of cloud products is likely to be a winner within the medical marketplace considering the mass uptake of cloud based EHR solutions in recent months.
Reports also suggest that new offerings like Lync, an enterprise grade platform similar to consumer-orientated Skype, will appeal to doctors as they increasingly communicate with patients via telehealth platforms.
“Not only Lync but Skype as well are becoming fairly predominant platforms for what I call ‘commodity’ telemedicine and telehealth services,” Dr Bill Crounse, Microsoft’s Senior Director for Worldwide Health, told Pulse IT Magazine. “We are seeing amazing progress at an institutional level, with people understanding and mapping out where their patients are coming from and how far they are travelling. How can we leverage this technology to better serve that population [of] patients who are being asked to travel three hours across town for a snippet of information or reassurance, when in fact this technology can be applied.”
Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro Enters The mHealth Market
Fighting Off The Competition
The Surface is entering a tough and pretty saturated market place, and will come head to head with more established products like the iPad, and its new, smaller and lighter cousin, the iPad Mini. Its hefty price tag may also see it struggle for buy in with doctors, especially in the increasingly BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment.
However Crounse is optimistic that the Surface will rise to the challenge. “With [the Surface] and a little bandwidth, I can be a global telemedicine provider, and that’s the difference. I’m forecasting some fairly fundamental changes in lesser skilled people, armed with smart technology, being able to scale healthcare services in ways that we haven’t seen before. The value of both Lync and Skype is in the reliability of the platform and the ease of use. You can’t underestimate the ease of use, whether we are talking about consumers or clinicians. And with things like integrating scheduling, it just makes it easy.”
Developing Healthcare Apps
To bolster its appeal to the healthcare sector, Microsoft is working with app developers to create tailored offerings that can assist clinical workflows and provide useful resources for providers. Cerner and Epic, two popular EHR vendors, have already created EHR interfaces for the Surface and Windows 8, allowing clinicians to access patient data from the tablet itself.
“I understand that iOS for consumer devices – there’s no question that there has been a lot of traction there,” Crounse admits. “The issue has always been how those devices plug and play in the enterprise environment. Microsoft’s footprint is very clearly in the enterprise. Up until fairly recently there really hasn’t been an alternative to what the experience has been on the iPhone or the iPad. They are brilliant, lovely devices, but they are lacking in some of the things you need, like data security, data input options, digital inking – things that doctors really want in devices. It is also about the experience of going from smartphone to tablet to laptop to desktop to the big screen in the living room. That’s what we are delivering.”