February 27, 2008

iPod Touch as Handheld Clinical Computer

I have been a big proponent of using handheld computers in the clinical setting. They are a tool that not only provides up to date information but also teaches students to think about how they use information in their practice. Unfortunately, handheld computers that use healthcare-related software have not kept up with the rest of the computer hardware world. Both Palm and Windows mobile handhelds have been slow to be updated. As educators asking students to invest in hardware for clinical use it is becoming harder to justify the expense for increasingly outdated hardware.

In 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both have Wi-Fi Internet access, web browsers, address books, and calendars. They also have a large bright screen, a unique keyboardless touch interface, a user-friendly synchronization with a desktop computer, and a palm-sized form factor.

Skyscape has already introduced several titles for use with the iPhone. The downside is that a $60/month phone contract is required as the data resides on a server.

The good news is that Apple will soon be releasing a software development kit that will allow PDA software writers to port health-care software to the iPod Touch and iPhone. This is exciting because the bright, clear screen, and intuitive interface will be ideal for clinical software. Additionally, the ability to work as an iPod player of audio and video makes the device more useful students outside the classroom or clinical site.

I am now calling on all healthcare-related PDA software designers to work on porting their titles to the iPod Touch and iPhone as soon as the SDK is available.