In the absolute madness of 2020, countless healthcare organizations were desperately searching for a quick, cost-effective solution to connect Covid patients to care teams and family. Faced with overflowing isolation units, PPE shortages and staff burnout, they needed something to stop the bleed, fast.

At the time, the iPad promised to be the pandemic hero. For the last 12 months, healthcare headlines have touted Apple’s darling as a “game changer” a “vital solution” and “a gift to healthcare”. Even before that, whether it was for telehealth, patient entertainment, or a quick way to access their patient portal, iPads appeared to be an excellent choice.

Why? To begin with, compared to other options, iPads are relatively inexpensive. They are good quality with an elegant user interface and familiar for staff and patients. To top it off, they are enterprise compliant, generally reliable and offer a host of useful applications.

Match made in heaven, ammiright? 

And yet, as the pandemic has worn on, our hopeful hero of telehealth started to reveal some catastrophic weaknesses…weaknesses that have a lot of systems trying to reconcile thousands of newly purchased iPads with the fact that their potential to be a long-term solution for digital health has turned out to be mostly hype.

That’s because, unfortunately for both Apple and the systems who made large iPad investments, healthcare presents some Krytonite-like challenges:

Limited Video Capability– while iPads are fine for the walking well or patients who can easily operate them (or who have nursing staff with the time to set them up) their infrastructure doesn’t allow for medical-grade telehealth through a PTZ camera. This means that a provider can’t control the camera—they can’t zoom in closely to a patient’s face or wound to get a more precise view of what is happening.

Difficult to Manage– iPads and tablets present a whole host of management issues. They are easy to lose or steal, they need to be charged, they have to be cleaned, and IT staff cannot proactively manage the devices if they are offline. In fact, they are difficult to manage for everyone (staff, patients, IT)…because they are inherently high touch.

There is also the issue of connectivity. Wifi in hospitals generally sucks to start with, add hundreds of iPads and it gets markedly worse.

Patient Privacy is Non-Existent– iPad’s auto-answer capability for video is invasive and doesn’t allow for permission/privacy.

IOS  Is Not Designed for Telehealth – the iPads IOS may be the biggest issue. Apple’s locked down system makes it incredibly difficult for telehealth vendors (and other peripherals) to operate in the IOS framework. And existing apps like Zoom and Webex are patched solutions for telemedicine in general.

The bottom line is that while iPads have value, their shortcomings in healthcare prevent them from being a meaningful, long-term solution for inpatient telehealth. At the same time, the Vitalchat team understands that healthcare organizations often don’t have the ability to just toss out a large equipment investment and bring in a completely new solution.

So now what?

In order to help our clients utilize their existing hardware, Vitalchat has worked diligently to find a way to leverage iPads. With Vitalchat technology, we are now able to make even the iPad experience touchless, with smart video monitoring capabilities. There are still some issues that cannot be circumvented (such as PTZ camera integration), but it certainly allows for a huge step up in functionality for all of those iPads that may begin gathering dust otherwise.

If your organization is interested to learn how to step up your iPad telehealth experience, schedule a demo and let us show you how.