Queensland Health this week revealed it was running a trial of Apple's hyped iPad tablet, deploying the device within its administrative employees, although tests with clinical staff have not yet kicked off.
The department's executive director of ICT service delivery, Phil Woolley, said the department was running a limited pilot program to determine potential solutions and services suitable for iPads and other similar devices. However, Woolley said, the deployment was restricted to administration staff only and the iPads have not been trialled for clinical purposes yet.
"Queensland Health has not formulated a view on the performance or usability of the iPad in clinical environments at this stage," he said.
Woolley said the pilot program has not commenced trials of the rival Android tablet platform just yet, but that all platforms would eventually be evaluated. Also, he said he doesn't exclude that after further analysis the iPads could be deployed in clinical environments too. "Subject to outcomes of the pilot and further investigations, we anticipate that the tablet would be useful for mobile access for clinical applications including email, document management and web access into department application and research sites," he said.
Queensland Health is — at the moment — a rarity in that most of Australia's state health departments had so far shunned official trials of the iPad, despite the device's anecdotal popularity with clinical staff such as doctors and specialists.
The Department Health of Victoria has no policies in place regarding the use of all mobile computing and data storage devices. It also has no formal view on tablet devices and potential use within its operations. The Northern Territory Department of Health and Families denied any use of the iPads or other tablet devices.
NSW Department of Health said the department did not hold formal plans on specific brands or devices. It said the department was considering the application and implications of these technologies as part of the roll-out of future corporate and clinical programs, but wouldn't share further information on the actual programs.
However, South Australia Health, which temporarily banned the iPad in May 2010, has lifted its moratorium and allowed its executives to use the Apple tablet as an e-reader; a practice which has proved to be cost-effective.
Other state health departments have not yet responded to a request for comment on the issue.