The Rise of Apple in Healthcare IT

Go to any hospital and you are likely to see Apple® products in the hands of your care providers. In fact, a recent CHIME survey revealed that 62.5 percent of physicians use an iPhone®, iPad®, or iPod Touch® within their daily care routines. Apple products are often perceived with a sort of white coat prestige. Many physicians probably choose to use Apple products within the hospital because the technology offers an excellent user experience and because many use the devices in their personal lives as well—it’s familiar. Like many business users, they are simply more efficient and productive with these consumer-minded devices. Physicians’ seemingly insatiable demand for Apple technology has led many healthcare IT teams to choose iOS® as the preferred choice for hospital-issued devices and to support ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) programs to allow physicians to use their own iPhones for patient care.

Use cases from mobile access to electronic health records (EHRs), to secure texting and alarm management, to drug reference and medical calculators have turned iPhones into clinical coordination powerhouses. Hospitals have even used iPads to further enhance the in-patient experience by using them for surveys, kiosks, and dashboards for notifications about treatment plans. Consumer health use cases, such as the Apple Watch® and the Health app, have implications of even more value for holistic and preventative healthcare in the future. Hospitals have realized that Apple products have the potential to be very valuable to patient care, and healthcare IT departments are getting the tools from Apple to fully deliver that value.

Within the last few years, Apple has introduced new programs to streamline the deployment and management of its products at scale. The Device Enrollment Program (DEP) allows healthcare IT admins to pre-configure devices for users, so that they can unbox a new device themselves without IT intervention. Upon unboxing the device, DEP can be leveraged to automatically enroll the device into management via mobile device management (MDM), so that security and convenience settings can be pushed to the users after completing Apple’s native setup prompts. This provides an excellent experience for both the user and for IT. In addition to DEP, Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program (VPP) allows hospitals to purchase app licenses in bulk and remotely distribute them to users, as well as revoke and resend licenses to users as they come and go. More recent revisions to these programs allow IT to manage apps by device, rather than Apple ID, which is excellent for shared device uses cases, such as within nursing units. Apple’s deployment programs are supported by many device management solutions, including AirWatch® by VMware‎ ‎, Citrix XenMobile®MobileIron®, and JAMF Software’s Casper Suite®.

Apple also offers unmatched native security architecture in the iOS platform. Native security features like encryption, touch ID, activation lock MDM, and managed app capabilities (like managed open in) provide an excellent framework for ensuring compliance with HIPAA guidelines, standards set by The Joint Commission, and other industry regulations. While a physician uses her iPhone to send secure text messages and update a patient’s record in the EHR mobile application, compliance officers can be sure that all workflows and usage are secure and that patient information remains protected. The advanced level of security that Apple delivers with iOS makes it a great platform for use within highly regulated healthcare environments.

While Apple has been commonplace in healthcare for quite some time, healthcare IT departments still have a lot to learn about fully enabling these devices. Healthcare IT does, however, have a healthy appetite for knowledge about how to integrate Apple into hospitals. A recent CHIME survey shows that nearly 77 percent of healthcare IT executives are interested in learning how to integrate and optimize the use of Apple iOS mobile devices in healthcare. This education must begin with device management and the Apple deployment programs. A well deployed, well-managed device provides the right foundation for IT when it comes to building an app infrastructure and integrating it with related technologies. A good place to start obtaining this education is with one of the aforementioned device management vendors, with mobility service provider Vox Mobile, by going directly to Apple, or by working with mobility experts at Spok.

As healthcare IT becomes more and more proficient with the deployment tools Apple has made available, we will likely see use cases expand significantly. We are already seeing healthcare IT begin to develop appsprovide secure communications, and roll out mobile-accessible EHR systems. With seamlessly automated deployment, integrated clinical systems and directory services, and consumer health applications on the rise, the next big healthcare revolution is right around the corner.