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Apple just yesterday introduced the iPad, essentially an iPhone on steroids that bridges the gap between smartphones and small computers.

Will this be the platform that accelerates eHealthcare on the provider side (hospitals, doctors, medical education, etc.)?

I say yes. Here’s why:

First of all, the pace at which doctors are using smartphones as part of their practice (and especially iPhone/iPod Touch) is accelerating dramatically, as is uptake/usage of the applications (see here, here). Younger doctors especially will not want to practice untethered medicine.

Second, we are now at a place where the convergence of form factor, power, connectivity, affordability, and functionality argue for widespread adoption. An iPhone screen is pretty small. A laptop is inconvenient. An iPad which can be used for data lookup, data entry, point-of-need multimedia education and reference, and access to electronic health records – what’s not to like?

Third, because Apple knows how to create interfaces, and because app development is now in full swing, this device and its siblings (iPhone and iPod Touch) cross the threshold of easy. That’s crucial for rapid uptake. Also, it’s not a totally “new” device, so many of the potential users will be accustomed to the interface scheme.

Imagine an iPad mounted in hospital patient rooms, and other doctor-useful locations. A physician comes into the room, equipped with an iPhone, and the iPhone sends a signal to the iPad. A quick biometric finger scan and the doctor is “in” the system, with access to all information and medical records necessary for the patient. When the doctor leaves, he/she logs out, or failing that, once his/her iPhone is 20 feet out of range, the system logs the user off. Or the doctor simply carries around an iPad for always-on accessibility during rounds and other daily duties.

It’s not so much that the iPad is a gamechanger in and of itself – it should be an accelerator of trends that are already happening, and inevitable. It’s a right-device-at-the-right-time evolution. It could also be a fabulous tool for a pharma salesforce, but that’s another subject.

(More: Read this post by Christopher Penn, talking about sales and marketing, but note the ease and all-in-one themes. Also this Mashable article, with the payoff in the last paragraph. On the pharma side, I’d guess that Sally Church agrees with me).

Lots of other possibilities come to mind – what do you think? Gamechanger – or big yawn?

[Update: some contrarian points here, and some wait-and-see thoughts here. Mostly valid – but as I mention in the comments, iPad 2.0 will likely address most of these]

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