Experts rubbish iPhone for health use

It's not a cure-all - it's barely even a phone

Two NHS mobile equipment specialists have said that the short battery life of Apple's iPhone makes it unsuitable for use in health work

Paul Curley, clinical director of IT and consultant surgeon for Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said that his organisation's tests had found that personal digital assistants were viable for use within hospitals, but that performances varied.

"With the BlackBerry, the battery life is superb. With the iPhone, it's rubbish," he said.

Tracy Andrew, head of information security and compliance for Berkshire Shared Services, made a similar comment about its tests of mobile devices for use in the community. "We have two iPhones on trial, and the first complaint is that the battery doesn't last a day," he said.

The two were speaking at the SmartHealthcare.com Mobile and Wireless Healthcare event in Birmingham on 24 February 2010.

Curley said it was more difficult to find a mobile device to work in a hospital than in the community, as it would generally have to connect to numerous software packages and handle high-resolution images of scans. When scans will be used for clinical diagnosis, "the smaller your screen resolution, the less safe it is," he claimed.

He said the trust has trailed Sony PSP mobile devices, with no keyboard but a good screen. It was possible to type using the screen, but the devices worked badly when they did not have connectivity.

The trust is currently building two new hospitals through the private finance initiative, at Pontefract and Wakefield, both of which will have wireless access throughout. However, existing hospitals, including Curley's, tend to have wireless available in just some areas, such as wards, offices and theatres.

"We have a very limited wireless environment," he said, and devices have to be able to cope with that.

Curley said the ideal mobile device for use in hospitals would need to allow for a "hot swap" of batteries, without the device closing while these were changed, session persistance and fast log-in and connection. It would also be "ultra portable", have a good battery life, not get too hot while in use and be "cheapish".

The aim was "bedside, non-wired access to all relevant information," he said.

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