3 reasons why doctors will miss Steve Jobs

Doctors love their Apple Products. Just walk into any hospital ward, and see the types of mobile devices we are using. At weekly Grand Rounds conferences, you see plenty of iPads in use. At physician meetings, the laptop of choice is often the Macbook Pro. The data backs these anecdotal examples as well.

Doctors love their Apple Products – and Steve Jobs was obviously an extension of these products, often times cited as the singular force behind these products, and it’s why physicians who love his products mourn his passing.

There are three specific reasons why:

1 .Simplicity. In medicine, we deal with enough complexity. Knowing disease pathology and the mechanism of various illnesses and their treatments is a fascinating exercise, but it’s taxing. For every known in medicine, there are at least five unknowns. It’s what makes being a physician exciting, but stressful as well. We’re always on high alert – especially those of us who practice in the critical care arena.

Juxtaposed to this is our personal life arena, which doesn’t consist of beeping monitors, abnormal vital signs, and dying patients. We want the technology we use to be easy to understand, and simple to use – simplicity is something we appreciate due to the complexity of our profession.

We appreciate simplicity even more because of the software we use in a hospital setting. Ask any physician about their electronic medical record, or even the software on the medical devices they use. It’s a functional experience, but not a fun one. The $60,000 ultrasound machine I often use in the Emergency Room, while extremely functional and allowing me to make the proper diagnoses, has a horrid user interface. These types of experiences give us an appreciation for uncomplicated.

Simple is good for us. Simple is nice. Simple is fun. Simple is a relief.

2. Solid build quality. As I mentioned above, the software on many of the devices we use is not optimal, but usually, the same cannot be said for the hardware we use. The hardware we use in the surgical arena, or even to do invasive procedures at the bedside is of solid build quality. It has to be, hence the phrase “medical grade”. Peoples lives depend on the integrity of the hardware we use. As physicians, we appreciate this same medical grade feel extending to our personal tools.

The feeling of a Macbook Pro confers this – just compare the aluminum unibody hardware build to the majority of plastic casing laptops – it’s a completely different experience. This type of comparison extends into the smartphone and tablet arena as well. The iPad and iPhone 4 have a clearly superior build quality than their competitors

3. Uniformity. This has some overlaps with the first reason, but the key message here is that if you know how to use an iPhone, you know how to use an iPad. Jobs was a genius at understanding that uniformity is key for adoption. As physicians, we lack free time. We don’t want to sit down for hours and figure out the intricacies of an operating system. We don’t want to root a mobile phone (Android), just so we can take off the silly skins that a manufacturer throws on so that we can get a better user experience.

A better user experience shouldn’t have to be manufactured by the end user. It should be manufactured by the device maker – something Jobs unstood well. As he would often say, we want something that “just works.”

Jobs was an incredible innovator, who’s vision was nothing short of changing the way we do everything. His legacy, though impressive now, is sure to only grow as things like the nascent mHealth industry, which he helped spark, begin to mature.

Iltifat Husain is founder and editor of iMedicalApps.com where this article originally appeared.

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  • http://twitter.com/nataliehodge natalie hodge

    Great Post,  You might want to read this post which has been very popular on Health IT News…


    Dr Hodge


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JYZSGDUXTNSTJUV5WJB3ZIY23M terminator

    i am a 3rd world flight physician. i have been for 20+ years. i went to medical school to use my cerebral capacity. steve jobs was a great inventor no doubt.
    i have to ask this question— why are we selling our cerebral intelligence to electronics? isn’t the mind of a physician supposed to be brilliant and making decisions on his own?
    this is using a calculator to do my math, using predialed phone numbers to make a call, eating an energy bar to relpace a meal??????
    can anyone see where i am going?
    what happened to a physician making his own mind work?
    i am in my last years of practice and i am now teaching medicine.i will refuse to teach my students using steve jobs simplified apparatus to take the place of my cerebral hemispheres where i know can still compete with i-pads and so on.
    it is a shame that we have reached this point.

  • Anonymous

    Technology, a duel-edged sword. In principle, I agree with terminator, but, in the matter of practicality, technology is here to stay.

    Just for the sake of discussion, look at what has happened with the use of technology in the surgical field, in the past 40 years. The leaps and bounds that have been made, is almost science fiction in nature. For example, today there are surgeons using the DaVinci robotic device successfully. Who would have thought that would be done today, during the 70′s?! The concept was pure science fiction, at that time.

    I worked in the surgical field for over 25+ years and saw lots of technology, coming into play. One of the every first electronic gadgets was the Beeper. WOW, that was really a benefit for both physicians and surgical staff. Finally, we could have a life, yet be available for any emergency. Then, the ability to send a Text Message to one’s Beeper, came about. I also, saw the portable phone being used, during that time. Remember, the first portable phones were the predecessor to the mobile phone and what physician doesn’t use a mobile phone, these days?!

    I also, remember when the medical monitoring devices in the Operating Room came into being, from the NASA program. What a boon that was for anesthesia! Of course, they still had to use their brains, to keep the patients under, but, the monitoring devices helped ‘free’ them up, for truly concentrating on the patient.

    I also, remember one of the first hospitals in the Southern California area, that went completely computerized, during the late 70′s and just about failed, when all of the servers went down and they didn’t have means to utilize paper forms. That’s one of the bad sides of electronic technology, servers, hardware and software not doing what it was meant to do. However, we have learned to live with it.

    I see the IPhone and the IPad, as tools for the physician, not as a replacement for them. Trust me, for the ‘geeky’ physician the Android is a gadget worth having, but, these were the guys who really started the whole electronic gadgetry that we see in medicine.

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