Apple: The Gateway for Change in Medicine

Today, the invention of new technology has the aptitude to completely change our daily lives.  This can range from altering a solitary ingredient in an established routine, to shifting one’s strategy completely.  The iPad, from Apple, has been credited as ground breaking technology, having immense promise in fields including business, education, and recently, medicine.

There is still no way to visualize whether the iPad can transform how hospitals nationwide carry out treatment.  With media claims and potential outlooks, the iPad has received, numerous medical professionals, hospitals, schools, and even the entire healthcare industry have been eager to incorporate and test this handy gizmo in their everyday practices.  It seems that everyone has caught the curiosity bug regarding what the iPad could truly mean for the field of medicine.

There is no denying that the iPad could be efficient and functional in many areas in a medical setting.  In a recent New York Times article entitled “With the iPad, Apple may just revolutionize medicine,” author Martha White states, “The health care industry just may have gotten the big break it needed to launch into the 21st century with this one.”[7] Ultimately, through exploring the devices practicality and uses, it is evident what the iPad could mean for changing the way patient care occurs in hospitals across the country.

The iPad’s applications can be analyzed by looking at components including communication, access, and data input capabilities.  As stated in the online article  “What the iPad could mean for medicine,” “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.”[6]

Many people wonder what the true benefits of the iPad are, and why it should be used instead of other technological devices.  The iPad is small and portable; it makes retrieving information a snap, offers more visibility than a Smartphone, and is relatively inexpensive.  Additionally, it holds a long battery life, and users are already familiar with basic iPhone and IPod functions. The iPad is a versatile device that could be “carried around by medical personnel, mounted at the foot of patient beds, used by doctors, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists- the list goes on.”[6] As a result, it makes communication and document modification tasks incredibly easy.  There are multiple reasons to test this device out and see what it can bring to the medical world.

Contrastingly, it is evident that using the iPad to revolutionize the medical world is not a perfect solution.  There are many reasons why Apple’s product could fall short, and result in the need to purchase more equipment to achieve the iPad’s aspirations.  Major downfalls include that there is no camera, and that flash videos are incapable of being played on all Apple products.  Users often become frustrated with the lack of a mouse, and the product’s durability is questioned whether it can hold up against the constant wear and tear in a hospital setting.

One of the major advantages of the iPad that has caused the idea that it could strongly impact the health care community is the large variety of medical applications built into it.  Allison Sharp describes twenty-five of these applications to revolutionize healthcare while dividing them up into categories including reference, drugs, diagnosis, and patient care. She reports on efficient applications such as Taber’s medical reference dictionary, a refresher in Human Body 3D Anatomy, iMeds XL to provide prescribing information, Disgnosaraus DDx with information on hundreds of diseases, and Blausen Human Atlas, to help doctors communicate with patients using simplified terms to help enhance understating. [4]

Regarding iPad use in the healthcare field, many people restrict its possible use to the hospital setting.  However, iPads are being increasingly used and are gaining recognition in a different setting, the medical school.  Many schools have adopted programs where they provide their students with iPads.  The University of California at Irvine School of Medicine has implemented a system where first year students are provided access to four key texts from their UCI-furnished iPad’s.  In an online article, Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, Dean of the UCI School of Medicine states, “We believe a digitally based curriculum is the future of medical education.”[5] In addition, Stanford University’s School of Medicine has also adopted the iPad.  According to J. Patrick in an article entitled “iPad in education: Stanford Medical School Giving iPad’s to Students”, the school cited reasons behind the new program including going green, information literacy, and sharability. [3]

There is no denying that the iPad has a future in the medical field.  The question is, just how much large that role will be.  Harvey Castro, MD, draws an important conclusion in “The iPad: The Next Big Thing” when stating, “the bottom line is the future is bright for iPad.  Imagine a day when you visit your physician office and instead of using the clipboard, you are given an iPad to fill out the forms and review a health education video prior to meeting your health care professional.”[1] If the iPad becomes as ubiquitous in medical facilities as the iPod is everywhere else, millions of dollars can be saved, and light would be shed on healthcare and its push toward digitalized records.  White states, “Given what Apple’s already managed to deliver: a reasonably lightweight, user-friendly, power sipping link between a doctor and the rest of the medical universe.  While the jury’s still out on the iPad’s appeal to status-update messes, it appears to be the booster shot the health care industry needs.”[7]

By considering the iPad’s commutation and accessibility features, we have cemented the iPad’s ability to modify, simplify, and restructure how the typical medical facility functions. There is no denying that the iPad is here to stay in some way.  Observing its future, and if it will revolutionize medicine in the way it is hyped up to, will be something no one should miss!    

References

1. Castro, Harvey, MD. “The iPad: The Next Big Thing?” Emergency Medicine News 32. 3 (2010).  http://journals.lww.com/emnews/Fulltext/2010/03001/The_iPad_ Next_Big_Thinng_.aspx. (accessed September 30, 2010).
2.  “iPad and Medicine.” April 28, 2010.http://open.medicdrive.org/blog/2010/04/28/ipad-and-medicine/ (accessed September 24, 2010).
3.  J, Patrick. “iPad in education: Stanford Medical School Giving iPad’s to Students.” August 1, 2010.http://justanotheripadblog.com/ipad-in-education-2/ipad-in-education-stanford-school-of-medicine-giving-ipads-to-students (accessed September 26, 2010).
4.  Sharp, Allison. “25 iPad Apps Revolutionizing Healthcare.” May 18, 2010.http://masterofpublichealth.org/2010/25-ipad-apps-revolutionizing-healthcare/ (accessed September 30, 2010).
5.  “UC Irvine School of Medicine’s Revolutionary iPad Program to Utilize E-Textbooks from Elsevier.” August 26, 2010.http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/uc-irvine-school-of-medicines-revolutionary-ipad-program-to-utilize-e-textbooks-from-elsevier-101545563.html (accessed September 28, 2010).
6.  “What the iPad may mean for medicine.” August 2, 2010.http://www.nursingschools.net/blog/2010/08/what-the-ipad-may-mean-for-medicine/ (accessed September 20, 2010).
7.   White, Martha C.. “With the iPad, Apple may just revolutionize medicine.” The Washington Post (2010), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/09/AR2010040906341_pf.html. (accessed September 30, 2010)

By Lauren Piccioli, George Washington University

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  • Alexander Grijalva

    I am surprised that there is no mention about information privacy and security. Institutions not only have to contend with the benefits of such devices, but also the risks and costs. It is easy to be impressed by the technology–its features and benefits–but nothing comes without risk, and these devices are an extension of an institution’s information technology environment. They’re points of access that have to be secured.