Dan Diamond, Managing Editor
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc. and pioneer of personal computing, passed away on Wednesday. A leading innovator--and one of the nation's most prominent cancer patients, too--Jobs was 56 years old.
Lasting impact on health care
While Apple and Jobs predominantly focused on consumer electronics, the company significantly influenced the health care industry.
In interviews, health care executives would cite Jobs, as much as any out-of-industry leader, for helping rethink their approach to the customer experience. Meanwhile, Jobs explicitly targeted hospitals and physicians as a prime market for the iPad tablet computer.
As a result, the Briefing frequently reported on the "Apple effect" in health care.
Various iPhone and iPad applications, some developed by hospitals, offer new ways to access and share clinical data. The Briefing profiled how Houston-based Texas Children's Hospital deployed iPhones to improve staff communication. The Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children piloted an iPad app to explain MR and CT procedures to nervous pediatric patients. Meanwhile, more than 25% of physicians now use a tablet device, often the iPad, to view medical records and perform tasks at the bedside.
"CIOs and doctors are now envisioning solutions that would not have been possible without Steve's innovations," according to John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in an interview with InformationWeek. Halamka added that the iPad was a "game-changer" for its ability to allow emergency physicians to collaborate on care.
According to Keith Fraidenburg, VP at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the mere introduction of the iPhone and its successors "changed everything" for hospital IT departments. "Prior to the introduction of these devices, hospital IT departments typically supported a single-device or single-platform," Fraidenburg said. But as more physicians came to their IT departments with requests to accomodate new iPhones and iPads--stressing how the devices would improve their practices--"hospital IT departments have really been forced to become more device and platform agnostic."
High-profile cancer patient who didn't want the attention
What proved more difficult for the Briefing over the years was how to cover Jobs' own illness.
Jobs disclosed in 2004 that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, and he reportedly underwent a liver transplant in 2009. The high-profile medical bouts led to years of media speculation about Jobs' health and its impact on Apple's future, especially after he stepped down as Apple CEO in August 2011.
But unlike prominent cancer patients such as cyclist Lance Armstrong or actress Christina Applegate, who became spokespeople for their illnesses, Jobs shared few details about his medical condition. And as readers of the Briefing pointed out, speculating on any individual's health--particularly in an era of HIPAA--can be murky and inappropriate.
Apple and Jobs' family still have not released his cause of death.
What next for Apple?
The company remains poised to influence the future of health care data access and mobile health.
Apple's iCloud, launched in June, provides a no-cost online storage and synchronizing service for files and software. As a growing number of health providers and hospitals integrate iPads and iPhones into electronic health records (EHRs), some analysts say that the iCloud will facilitate device management by keeping data in the cloud and accessible to multiple users.
The greater functionality of the iPad 2, which launched in March 2011, also has created new opportunities for improving bedside care. Tim Cook, who Jobs hand-picked as his successor, announced on Tuesday that more than 80% of the nation's "top" hospitals either had deployed or are testing iPads.