On Feb. 4, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it had approved the first diagnostic radiology application for mobile devices. The app is called Mobile MIM, created by Cleveland-based MIM Software, and it's part of a wave of mobile applications aimed at making life easier for doctors and nurses by delivering more timely information virtually anywhere on any device. And the image quality is extraordinary.
The app makes it possible for doctors using Apple (AAPL) iPhones or iPads to measure distances on images and measure image intensity values as well as to annotate an image before transmitting it back to a hospital's or doctor's secure medical-records network.
That is, Mobile MIM lets docs do just about everything they would need to do with an x-ray without having to sit down at a big monitor or a workstation. "This important mobile technology provides physicians with the ability to immediately view images and make diagnoses without having to be back at the workstation or wait for film," said Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist and deputy director for science in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in the press release.
Other Players Are Rolling Out Apps
With medical costs continuing to skyrocket in the U.S., the field is one of the favorite targets of technology companies aiming to take the staid and conservative field (most docs still use paper records) digital. The U.S. government, via Medicare, is heavily subsidizing electronic medical records (EMR) installations at hospital and doctors offices, provided they can show "meaningful use" of the systems.
And some of the big public companies in this market, such as AllScripts, have discussed using iPads as delivery vehicles for the various software and software-as-a-service products that AllScripts makes for physicians. A startup called ClearPractice released this fall an EMR product for iPad use. Called Nimble, the app has gotten strong reviews.
Mobile MIM's product works on iPhones. But I think that Apple's iPad could well be the device that blows the field wide open. Why? It has a big-enough display to be useful for even very high-resolution applications (such as reading x-rays), a fast-enough processor and a powerful-enough CPU to be extremely responsive. Plus, it's still small enough to be carried easily.
Companies have built medical software for iPhones, but they haven't gotten as much adoption as hoped, in part, I believe, because of the relatively small display. There's a ton of money to be made in upgrading America's medical info-tech infrastructure, so keep a close eye on this trend as more products based on iPads or tablet PCs aimed at serving doctors get launched.
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