iPad for Healthcare
Does Apple’s iPad offer a solution for the healthcare environment? This post will look at several cases where it would fit and others where it does not.
Where it fits:
Explaining clinical results to a patient
Discussing test results or possible courses of treatment with a patient can benefit from an interactive device such as the iPad. The doctor can sit next to the patient and access his EMR, show graphs, look at numbers, and access informative websites as reference as he explains the results. The portability (small, light-weight) of the iPad makes this possible.
Looking up resources on the fly
The training period for doctors is long and detailed, but they can’t always remember everything. Having an iPad in their lab coat pocket could be just the thing they need when a drug name slips their mind or they want to look up the address for a referring doctor.
Consult data before treatment
Usually before surgery or other types of medical intervention, the surgeon will consult with diagnostic images or results prior to undertaking the procedure. If the hospital infrastructure is in place, having an iPad would save him that extra trip to the lab to check them. Usually the doctor would be already familiar with the case, so having a high screen resolution is not necessary. Consulting images prior to surgery is normally a precautionary measure.
Where it does not fit:
Initial patient consultation
Technology can sometimes get in the way. When meeting a patient for the first time, the focus should be on him and his medical problems. This is especially true if the patient is elderly since they may feel more uneasy with the presence of too many gadgets. Consultation is narrative in nature and the doctor would need some free-form method of text entry. The iPad also doesn’t ship with a stylus or an app to record handwritten text, so a special app would be needed.
On the ward
The most popular choice for technology on the ward is a computer on wheels (COW) since it cannot be taken off the ward. iPads, unless personal to the doctor, would soon get misplaced. I don’t see an institutional deployment of iPads to hospital wards any time soon.
Emergency rooms are mainly for treating urgent medical problems. If you have chest pain, that supersedes all other problems and that has to be addressed. If you have a broken foot, get it fixed. There is no time or need for an iPad in this context.
I can think of a number of worksheets or forms that could be filled in on an iPad. The form would have to be converted into a style that works with iPad. If you were to take a conventionally web form and ask someone to use it on an iPad it wouldn’t work. Application control would have to proceed question-by-question and then provide a way of viewing the final result.
Unfortunately, generally speaking, there are a lot more forms where this style doesn’t work. Intake forms with a lot of narrative entry would be more difficult on an iPad compared with a traditional keyboard. In the healthcare domain, I think these types of forms outnumber the ones that would fit on an iPad.
What we see here is that the iPad does have a place in the delivery of healthcare, but it will only work as a personal device for a physician, not as shared institutional device for a hospital.
About the Author
Quintin has an extensive software development background in clinical applications and business intelligence.