The Third Screen Revolution in Healthcare is Before Us

This post was originally featured on HIStalk.

For the past few years, there’s been a lot of innovation and discussion about the second screen – primarily smartphones and tablets – while watching TV. Most second screen apps provide information and services to complement the content on the big screen.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has outlined Microsoft’s three screens and a cloud strategy. Microsoft wants to be your technology vendor across all three screens — smartphone, PC, and TV– and connect all of them via the cloud. Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and to some extent Facebook are all converging on slight variations of a shared vision to be the super-mega technology company across all computing form factors.

Doctors are already making use of EHRs and other clinical data across two screens. Most doctors are looking up ancillary information on their smartphones during the clinical exam. It’s convenient because doctors can leave the clinical note in sight and in mind while looking up any other information on their smartphone. They key is that they don’t change screens away from the active clinical note. Some of the information that doctors are looking up on smartphones is coming straight from the EHR via a mobile app, while other information is from the Internet more broadly, such as Epocrates.

For once, healthcare is actually ahead of the mainstream in technology adoption. Clinicians have beaten consumers to semi-ubiquitous use of the second screen. So what about the third screen? When will inpatient clinicians make use of the large screen in most patient rooms more effectively?

They probably won’t. It’s generally difficult to read large amounts of text and numerical data (think labs, allergies, meds, etc.) based content from 10 feet away. Try hooking up your PC to your living room TV to find out for yourself. But there will be an incredible third screen revolution in healthcare. It will happen on eyeware computing platforms, including Google Glass and Meta-View, and I’m sure there will be many others as well.

Each form factor has its strengths and weaknesses. Broadly speaking, form factors can be thought of in terms of the amount of friction between the human and the computer. Laptops and tablets provide larger screens, but aren’t that mobile. Smartphones are mobile, but don’t offer robust data entry options. Eyeware computers can in time offer screens that can present vast quantities of data efficiently and effectively through three dimensions.

I wore Google Glass for the first time last week. Unfortunately, the screen just isn’t very large, which presents serious limitations to developers looking to develop point-of-care applications on the Glass platform. Of course, Glass is a consumer-focused, first- generation product.

As eyeware platforms emerge and mature, we’re going to see a huge wave of innovation point of care healthcare application innovation on these platforms. Someone has to solve the EHR backlash problem.