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SA Health buys 200 iPads, dismisses Kindle

The South Australian Department of Health has bought some 200 Apple iPads and plans to buy more for its 3300 staff after an internal review lauded the security, functionality and return on investment of the devices.

The South Australian Department of Health has bought some 200 Apple iPads and plans to buy more for its 3300 staff after an internal review lauded the security, functionality and return on investment of the devices.

It was recently revealed that a purchasing ban on the devices had been lifted some five months after it was imposed.

A May review by SA Health found that the iPads will pay for themselves within two months, and are secure enough to handle patient and business data.

Initially, however, only executives will receive iPads, while nurses and doctors will need to wait to get their hands on the popular devices until clinical software is developed.

"It hasn't happened yet," SA Health chief information officer David Johnston said. "But clinical [staff] are free to submit useful applications for [peer review]."

Johnston said the former Victorian Brumby Government was wrong to promise hundreds of free iPads to the public without having assessed them.

"The cost of supporting iPads far outweighs the cost of purchase," he said. "You need to work out what applications will run on it before you know if it is suitable."

The iPads passed SA Health reviews, which tested the device's compatibility, security and appropriateness using 10 tablets. They have been cleared for business use to be used mainly as an e-reader, and are expected to be used by clinicians at a later date.

The Amazon Kindle was also tested, but it was shelved after the department found it to lack the processing requirements to adequately handle very large PDF documents.

More than 100 business staff were sent for training to learn how to produce centralised PDF documents that contain hyperlinks to documents created by other team members. Johnston said it saves time and prevents documents from being lost.

Department units can "hire" iPads from the IT department for four years under a centralised procurement model, bought under separate unit budgets.

Johnston said the model allows for IT to retain control of hardware refreshes and device and software management.

"The iPad and its e-readers are very, very cost effective for handling large documents," he said. "Some of our executives can print 600 pages at a meeting."

The iPad's 256-bit advanced encryption standard built into the fourth version of the device's operating system version passed the security tests too.

"Printed paper is the ultimate unsecured document," Johnston said. "Of course it could get better, but it's good."

The most secure method for staff to transfer sensitive documents was found to be a cable and Apple iTunes. All iPads have remote wipe and barring if passwords are incorrectly entered three times.

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