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Patrick Clyne was still watching Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the iPad on the Internet when a customer called to ask if his company's software would work on it.

Clyne oversees programming and operations at MacPractice, which makes medical software for the Macintosh platform.

He and partner Mark Hollis built their Lincoln company upon the cult of Macs. Doctors especially, Clyne says, love Macs.

MacPractice was launched in 2004 and has since grown from two employees to 65 -- not counting additional sales and training staff scattered around the country. The company is on track to sell software systems to 600 medical practices this year.

But Apple hadn't shared anything about its iPad with anyone before the unveiling, Clyne says.

So engineers at the company's expansive Haymarket office quickly adapted MacPractice's limited iPhone applications to work on Apple's new electronic clipboard.

Next, they made it possible to remotely operate MacPractice software using an iPad -- the iPad connects wirelessly and mirrors a Mac computer running the software. Type on the iPad and that same text also appears on the Mac screen. Programs on the computer also can be opened or closed by touching the iPad.

"It's useable," Clyne says. It works well for anyone comfortable navigating with an iPad. But it's not the solution.

This fall, MacPractice will unveil applications built specifically for the iPad, scaled and formatted to its tablet-size screen, operating intuitively like all other Mac functions.

In examination rooms and dentist offices across the country, Clyne predicts, "this will replace the computer."

A hand-carried iPad, he also predicts, will replace all of the stationary computers in each of the exam rooms.

Physicians will carry iPads while making hospital rounds and update patient information on the go. Doctors will take them home to complete clinical notes or maybe watch a movie. While counseling patients, doctors will be able to check past prescriptions, blood pressures and other measures.

Clinics will hand them to new patients to fill out questionnaires. Office staff will make schedule changes and request referrals.

"It makes some things 10 times easier," Clyne says.

At least 50 iPads can connect simultaneously to one MacPractice system. Edits made using any one of them will instantly copy to others.

There's no time lost to computers booting up. Turn it on, type the password, and it's ready. The batteries last a full clinic day.

Some thought the iPad was a toy when it was introduced.

The iPad's popularity "is bigger than what most people think it is," Clyne says.

Corporate America will make iPads part of everyday lives, he said.

"That's yet to be seen, but it will happen really soon."

Imitators will flood the market with cheaper alternatives to the iPad, Clyne predicts, "but none will be as elegant." None will have the Mac's reputation for ease of use, stability and low-cost maintenance.

A programmer since the 1980s, Clyne was in Lincoln doing work for WebMD when it opted to focus on PC platforms and he became unemployed.

Back then, Macs held just 2.4 percent of the computer market. They cost more than PCs and they did less.

"Who knew," Clyne says, "that Mac was a cult?"

Learn how to do one thing on a Mac, and you've pretty much learned how to do everything else. Macs, meanwhile, learned to use PC software.

Macs now comprise nearly 20 percent of consumer sales in the United States.

And for anyone wanting medical software in the Mac environment, MacPractice remains the sole option, Clyne says.

Apple refers physicians to MacPractice, and engineers from Apple help the company keep the Mac experience pure.

There may be a recession, Clyne says, but MacPractice doesn't know it.

"I'd love to show you our charts," he says.

The future will see the rapid expansion of the federal electronic medical records initiative, enabling a freer flow of patient information among physician practices and hospitals. Government funding will be tied to the meaningful use of electronic records.

Says Mark Hollis, president of MacPractice: "We've been overwhelmed with requests from doctors who want to use MacPractice on an iPad."

Reach Mark Andersen at 402-473-7238 or mandersen@journalstar.com.

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