BlackBerry SIM-optional; No "goofy" health apps

By Brian Dolan
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mVisum BlackBerry EKG"We are very proud of the results of recent polls that show BlackBerry has passed Palm and [stayed ahead] of the iPhone as the number one smartphone among physicians," said Sheldon Hebert, Director, Public Sector, Healthcare and Education at BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion during a webinar last week. Hebert said that BlackBerry is having such success in healthcare so far because of its ability to provide security and privacy management. BlackBerry is the default handheld device for healthcare, Hebert said.

While Manhattan Research has reported that BlackBerry remains in the top spot for most popular smartphone among physicians, the combined total for physician adoption of iTouch iPod Touch devices with iPhone devices is greater than adoption of BlackBerry devices among that group. In the past, that may not be viewed as a fair comparison, however, iPod Touch devices run over WiFi and on the whole function as iPhones without cellular coverage.

Hebert noted during the webinar that Research In Motion is now offering a somewhat similar offering: SIM-optional BlackBerry devices that run only on a facility's in-house WiFi so care facilities can leverage their own wireless networking assets.

With SIM-optional devices, you don't need to pay an ongoing service charge each month, Hebert explained. You can deploy these devices at capital cost. One of the arguments we have heard is that overall monthly costs are one key obstacle for getting devices into people's hands, he explained. Also, I know not all wireless carriers are going to have 100 percent penetatrion inside every hospital system, but being able to use a WiFi network will improve coverage, Hebert said.

"This is huge," Hebert said.

There is a lot of attention being paid to apps out there, Hebert said. From a BlackBerry perspective, we are born for the enterprise and happy serving it, which is why we see the opportunity in "super apps," or those that actually change the way the business is done, Hebert explained. Our partner dbMotion is a perfect example of what a "super app" should look like since it delivers the right info to the right person at the right time. Healthcare systems are beginning to test out electronic medical records apps on smartphones but these apps are "usually cumbersome and slow to navigate" so adoption has been slow, according to Hebert, but dbMotion can make the right kind of EMR data accessible via BlackBerry devices to physicians at the right time.

Hebert also made the point (more than once) that the apps that BlackBerry is focusing on are distinct from other "goofy" apps and "games" that get so much attention -- assumedly, he's referencing Apple's varied iPhone health apps.

Super apps are the right applications that will help people make more informed decisions at the point of sale or point of care, Hebert said. For us, from a BlackBerry perspective, the focus is not necessarily on "fun" apps, but it's more about changing the way business is done through an enterprise application and approach.