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What the iPad May Mean for Medicine

August 2nd, 2010


New technology has the potential to change the way we do things, from changing a single part of a routine to altering the game plan entirely. Many have lauded Apple's new iPad as one of these revolutionary technologies, and one that has great potential to be used in fields like education, business and even medicine. Whether or not the iPad can truly revolutionize the way treatment is carried out at hospitals around the nation is yet to be seen, but there is a lot of buzz about it, and more and more facilities are willing to give it a try in their day-to-day practice. If you're curious about what the iPad could mean for medicine, from nursing schools to nursing homes, take a look at these potential applications, articles and even apps to see what the iPad could change, make easier, and streamline for medical facilities.

Applications

There are a wide range of ways that the iPad has been suggested for use in the hospital setting. Here are just a few applications that can show you what the iPad could mean for changing the way you do patient care in your hospital.

  • Accessing patient records. The iPad makes it simple to bring up and page through all kinds of patient records, including photos, radiology images, and much more.
  • Writing prescriptions. For hospitals with digital prescription systems, or even ones without, writing and getting a prescription filled for a patient could easily work with the iPad at the touch of a button.
  • Looking at x-ray images. Radiological images are already available to view on the iPhone with the right apps, but with the iPad, doctors and nurses will be able to see the images in a much larger size, making them more useful to the professionals and patients alike.
  • Sharing information with patients. With its fairly large screen, the iPad makes it possible to easily show patients images and information related to their treatment. And a better informed patient is more likely to be at ease and happier with treatment.
  • Communicating with hospital staff. Keeping in touch with those you work with in different parts of the hospital or even in different medical facilities altogether is incredibly easy with the functionality provided by the iPad.
  • Quickly finding images and diagnoses for patients. Not sure what exactly a bump or rash means on your patient? The iPad makes it simple to look up medical reference information with high resolution photos so you can improve the accuracy of your diagnoses.
  • Looking up other medical cases. If you've got a particularly difficult case to crack, you might need to do a little research. The iPad, working with some great apps, can help you do the research you need, contact other specialists and find the right information for the best treatment.
  • Sharing and publishing medical research. With the iPad, you'll be able to read the latest research being done and even share your own discoveries as you're making them, keeping you in the loop and helping doctors all over the world deliver the best care.
  • Taking patient history. While pen and paper can work fine for getting a patient history, taking it on the iPad means it can be instantly accessible for other doctors and nurses in the hospital and that it can be retrieved and modified in an instant.
  • Managing patient care. The iPad can make it simple to manage almost every level of patient care. Taking patient history, finding a diagnosis, writing prescriptions, sending a referral, helping patients understand their conditions and much more can all be done from one simple, easy-to-use device.

Benefits

Why use the iPad in a hospital and not some other form of technology? Here are some of the main benefits the device has to offer.

  • It's small and portable. Doctors and nurses can easily carry the device around or stow it away in their pockets, keeping records, information and contacts close at all times.
  • It can make retrieving information a snap. The iPad's processor and functionality make it simple and quick to pull up things like patient records at a moment's notice and help medical personnel deliver care quickly and accurately.
  • It offers more visibility than a smartphone. Many doctors have been using the iPhone or other smartphones to do many of the things the iPad does, but the larger screen on the iPad means more visibility, making information easier to see, access and even share with patients.
  • It's relatively inexpensive. While the iPad isn't exactly cheap, it can be as cost effective as a laptop, but with increased mobility that can make it especially useful in a hospital setting.
  • There are no additional fees. So long as you use your iPad on a local wi-fi server, you won't need to incur any additional fees to use it. That can be a big savings from an iPhone which requires cell and data plans.
  • There's a long battery life. Longer time without a charge means it can be used throughout the day without having to take a break, sometimes ten hours or more, something other tablets can't match.
  • It could potentially interface with existing iPhone and mobile devices. Sharing information between two Apple products shouldn't be a problem and could make it easy to transfer information and access it from multiple points.
  • There's a small learning curve. The iPad is new, but it draws on technology from existing devices, so many will already be familiar with how to use it. And with a simple interface, even the most technology impaired can figure out how to use it.
  • It makes communication easy. Both within a medical facility and with other treatment facilities, the iPad can make sending, sharing and keeping track of patient information incredibly easy.
  • It is versatile. It could be carried around by medical personnel, mounted at the foot of patient beds, used by doctors, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists– the list goes on. And as the technology advances, the potential uses for it will as well.

Disadvantages

Using the iPad in a medical setting isn't a perfect solution. Here are some ways that the product might not deliver and could mean needing more equipment to get the job done.

  • No Flash compatibility. Flash videos simply won't play on Apple products, and it doesn't look like Apple and Adobe will be coming to an agreement anytime soon. This could limit the types of medical information you can access.
  • No camera. If you need to take pictures of your patient's condition, want to video chat or even just share images of your practice, you'll need to use another device. Some suspect later versions of the iPad will have this function, but the current ones simply do not.
  • No Mouse. Those who use a lot of mouse-heavy applications may find themselves growing tired of scrolling and clicking with their fingers on the iPad. The iPad does not work with Apple's bluetooth mouse.
  • Durability. The iPad is a pretty sturdy device, but it is yet to be seen how it would hold up against heavy, everyday use in a hospital setting. Additionally, because it's always being carried, there's a good chance it will be subjected to a drop or two.
  • You can't swap batteries. While the iPad's battery may last a long time, the fact that it can't be swapped out for a fresh one makes it hard to use between different shifts and maintain continual care.

Articles

If you'd like to read more about how the iPad is impacting the practice of medicine, these articles are especially informative and useful.

Medical Apps

Hoping to give the iPad a try in your medical facility? Consider these apps as great additions to the technology.

  • Blausen Human Atlas: In this great resource, medical professionals will find 3D images of the human body along with handy images and videos explaining a wide range of medical conditions.
  • Visual Dx Mobile: Not entirely sure what that rash is on your patient? Through this app, you'll find images of thousands of dermatological conditions so you can make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Procedures Consult: Newbies to the medical field will love this app, with instructional videos on a procedures in a range of medical specialties, helping you know just what to do and how to do it.
  • Osirix: If you need to see radiology images on-the-go, this app can make it happen, with high quality and useful imagery at the touch of a button.
  • eFilm Mobile: This app is another mobile radiology tool, letting doctors and nurses easily take a look at scans from patients.
  • Papers: Check out this app for an easy way to look up new research papers, store them on your device and read them when you have a spare moment.
  • Lexi-Comp: Make sure your patients get the right medicines in the right dosages every time with the help of this prescription database.
  • MD on Call: For students, this can be an amazing tool for learning about some of the most common conditions they'll be confronted with. They range from the simple to the complex, and courses of treatment are included as well, making it an excellent educational tool.
  • Medical History: With this application, doctors and nurses can capture, store and share a complete medical history of any patient.
  • ACLS Advisor: Again, this application can be a great tool for learning or as a refresher for doctors who don't often deal with coding patients.


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