iPhone or iPod Touch and Medical Applications
It just so happened that last Friday when John Halamka posted about the iTouch for his "Cool Technology of the Week," I also happened to come across the abstract to the journal article "The iPhone in Medical Libraries," by Colleen Cuddy. I just received Cuddy's article from ILL and both Halamka's post and Cuddy's article are interesting and compliment each other nicely.
In this post Halamka primarily writes about the iPod Touch which is similar to the iPhone but with that pesky (and expensive) AT&T phone plan. Halamka describes the iPod Touch as a "game changing device." He lists several reasons, but I think the primary reason is consumer choice. I think as new students and residents come up, you will see people who are already familiar with iPods and less familiar with Palm and PocketPCs. Many probably had iPods before and they see the iPod Touch as familiar device that can fulfill their needs better than previous handheld devices. Essentially they have grown up with the technology. Just as they were needing a handheld device for information retrieval, the iPod line evolved and grew with them to include wifi enabled device for information retrieval. While the Palm and PocketPC devices were around, they did not become ingrained into and evolve with that generation.
So we have a cool new toy, but are there any real medical applications that people can use on them? Cuddy's article lists several companies that have been keeping up with mobile technology and have products for the iPhone and the iPod Touch. The two big providers are Unbound Medicine and Skyscape, who also happen to be some of the first companies dealing with medical software for the Palm and PocketPC. As Cuddy notes, the iPhone does not allow for programs to be uploaded or external memory cards. Therefore all of the applications must be online and Safari (Apple's browser) compatible. Both Unbound Medicine and Skyscape have many titles listed for the iPhone. The popular product Epocrates however is behind the game regarding the iPhone. The only version to work on the iPhone is the free version of Epocrates, which according to Cuddy is "essentially a basic drug look up." She also states that Epocrates will be doing more in the future for iPhone users, but I just looked on their website today and it appears they still only have the free version available to iPhone users. UpToDate released a Safari compliant version of their product. Since UpToDate off campus is fairly cost prohibitive to most institutions, I only see doctors using it while at the hospital or their own personal copies.
Don't forget about Apple's own download site. While programs cannot be physically installed like one does with a Palm or Pocket PC, they can be download from a variety of places like Apple's download site. One such program is OsiriX, an image processing software dedicated to view images (MRI, CT, PET, PET-CT, etc.). It is fully compliant with the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine).
The iPhone may have started out as a fun toy but it appears to be making strong headway into the medical handheld arena.