Busy physicians are often going from patient to patient and touching their mobile devices in between. Here are some washable covers to eliminate the danger of cross-contamination.
The Apple iPad dominated the tablet market in 2010, and, according to Canaccord Genuity, the global capital markets division of Canaccord Financial Inc., it should account for nearly two-thirds of all tablets sold during 2011. Sales within the health care sector are a strong contributing factor.
According to a recent survey of 2,041 U.S. practicing physicians by Manhattan Research, 30% already own an iPad and an additional 28% plan to purchase one within the coming six months. Institutions such as Stanford University School of Medicine have aided the adoption by providing iPads to medical students and other physicians.
When coupled with an increasing penetration of the iPhone, this strong adoption within the medical community becomes an increasing concern.
“It’s a public safety issue for both [the physician’s] family and their own health, but also from patient to patient, from a cross-contamination perspective,” explains Gary Rayner, chief executive officer of LifeProof.
LifeProof is one of several companies that have begun marketing protective cases for these mobile devices. As physicians make their rounds, or move from patient to patient within their medical practice, their hands are busy handling equipment or examining a patient. As such, it’s not unusual to see a mobile device, be it a tablet or smartphone, slip through fingers or slide off the edge of a bed or examination table.
“Our philosophy with developing LifeProof was to protect mobile devices so they can be used in every circumstance you could encounter in life without concern,” says Rayner, whose firm markets a waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and snowproof case for the iPhone 4/4S, and will debut a similar product for the iPad early in 2012.
Being waterproof, Rayner explains, means that the product is completely washable — and not just with water, but with antibacterial soaps and agents to eliminate the danger of cross-contamination.
“The doctor may want to interact with the touch screen, and unintentionally might cross-contaminate just by touching the screen before washing his or her hands after dealing with a patient,” he says. “That’s a very difficult problem.”
Feedback has been extremely positive. Rayner says he’s received reports from several dozen physicians noting, “I don’t know how I could have lived without this before.”
In April 2011, SlateShield introduced an all-in-one integrated iPad case solution that was inspired by requests from doctors and Ed Zabrek, iPhone Life’s medical correspondent. It offers doctors a rotating handle, an adjustable strap and an integrated stand (patented) that allows for landscape, portrait viewing and typing mode.
SlateShield’s 360-degree rotating iPad case helps doctors with multiple applications in the clinical environment: One-handed use, the ability to show vital information on the move with one hand and the ability place the iPad quickly and easily into viewing positions. This would suit a physician who needs to either show information to colleagues, patients or needs both hands free. A case for the iPad 2 was released in June.
“Physicians can pretty much do anything they want with it, besides drop it,” says Leonard Wesson, SlateShield CEO. “It’s an ABS case, so the case itself is not going to break. But if you were to drop it at the right angle, you would still shatter the screen.”
The full ABS case and anti-glare screen protector allows for sanitizing the outside using alcohol or other cleaning agents. And the company is looking into some other options, such as applying or imbedding an anti-microbial coating to the case.
Wesson says feedback thus far has been extremely positive.
“It’s very compact, and we made the soft rubber handle adjustable,” he says. “So whether [it’s used by] a female physician or a male physician, they won’t have worry about the fit.”
Yet another technology finding increasing usage for protecting mobile devices is Frog Skin, a clear, film-like covering that wraps around the device. John Halamka, MD, writes in an online blog that iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches have become the most popular mobile devices at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston. The Frog Skin prevents operating room liquids from getting into the phone.
“We tested it by making a phone call in a glass of water,” Halamka writes. “They are completely waterproof, but probably not under pressure. And yes, you can operate the phone with gloves and the Frog Skin on.”
What’s next? Wesson acknowledges that the iPad currently covers about 70% of the tablet market, but he’s closely monitoring the competition on the Android side to see which device comes out on top.
“It’s a bit early to say which is the next unit we’ll support,” he says. “But we are also working on a universal version that would clamp onto the unit and would work with virtually any 10-inch device.”
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