Steve Jobs famously said that “laptops are like trucks. They’re going to be used by fewer and fewer people. This transition is going to make people uneasy.”
Will this be true in healthcare?
The evolution has been quick: We’ve gone from mainframes to mini computers to desktops and servers seemingly in the blink of an eye. Now we’re using laptops, tablets and smartphones – or traveling with just a tablet and smartphone.
Mobile is the most under-hyped trend in technology. Mobile devices – smartphones, tablets and, soon, wearables – are occupying an increasingly larger percentage of total computing time. Though they tend to have smaller screens and fewer robust input methods relative to traditional PCs (the keyboard and mouse are still the most efficient input methods), mobile devices are often preferred because users value ease of use, mobility and access more than raw efficiency.
The EMR is still widely considered a desktop app with a mobile add-on. A few EMR companies, such asDrChrono, are mobile-first. Most of the big vendors cite battery issues, screen size and lack of a keyboard as reasons why mobile won’t eat healthcare. Let’s consider these constraints and the innovations happening along each front:
Battery – Unlike every other computing component, batteries aren’t doubling in performance every 2-5 years. Battery density continues to improve at a measly 1 percent to 2 percent per year. Breakthroughs in battery density and increasing efficiency in battery-hungry components, such as screens and CPUs, will help. We’re also on the verge of a transition to OLED screens, which will drive an enormous improvement in energy efficiency. Mobile CPUs are also about to undergo a shift, becoming good enough that the majority of future CPU improvements will emphasize battery performance rather than increased compute performance.
Keyboard – Virtual keyboards will never offer the speed of physical keyboards, but people are missing the point: Providers won’t have to type as much, so the keyboard itself won’t really matter. NLP is finally allowing people to speak freely. Through a combination of voice, NLP and scribes, doctors will type less and yet document more than ever before. Given how challenging and fragmented the technology problem is, I suspect we won’t see a single solution, but a variety of solutions, each with unique compromises.
Screen size – We’ll soon be seeing foldable, bendable and curved screens reach the marketplace. These will help resolve the screen size problem on touch-based devices. The advent of eyeware devices will give tech companies an enormous canvas to work with. Devices such as the MetaPro and AtheerOne, meanwhile, will face a new problem: data overload. These new user interfaces can present extremely large volumes of robust data across three dimensions. They will mandate a complete re-thinking of presentation and user interaction with information at the point of care.