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The Medical iPad

BR iPadIn March 2011 the new iPad 2 was released after an invasion of 15 million iPads sold since April 2010. Apple has made it a tad thinner, a tad lighter, added front and back cameras for video conferencing, added video out for all programs with an extra adapter, and added speed. Both have 16GB, 32GB or 64GB internal storage options, Wi-Fi only or 3G cell data enabled, and ten hours of use with the built-in rechargeable battery. It does everything the iPhone or iPod Touch can do, only bigger. The bad news is it is bigger and hard to carry into the somewhat harsh clinical world on your belt or pocket like the iPhone or iTouch.

Computer tablets have been around for a few years, but the sleek stylish iPad with thousands of established apps and the iPhone popularity has propelled it as a top seller. The touch screen is big, beautiful, readable, resizable, and fast. You can type on the touch screen keypad which is easy for some while others need a wireless or attached keyboard adding another thing to carry. It connects to Wi-Fi networks in seconds making email and web surfing fast and efficient. It can come equipped to use a cellular data connection and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi alone.

So why not a laptop or netbook computer? If you need to connect USB drives, add memory, have an attached keyboard, play flash and all other video formats, or play DVDs, then stay with a notebook or netbook. If you like the iLife portability of iPhone or iPod touch and all the apps at the iTunes App store, then the iPad is a great choice if you need or want a bigger touch screen.

iPads  have invaded medical schools at the University of Minnesota,  Stanford, University of California-Irvine, and the University of Central Florida

iPad iconGabriel Najarro graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS degree in Bioengineering and has worked extensively with computer technology prior to entering the Emory University School of Medicine PA program. He is currently a second year PA student doing clinical rotations and has used the iPad from its introduction.

“It’s wonderful for patient education; you can quickly show stored photos, documents or other medical diagrams that make for great teaching tools.  You could even pull up a web or stored patient education video on your iPad for the patient to watch while you finish charting.  The amount of medical apps in the iOS system is amazing, if I ever find something I think can’t be done on the iPad, a quick Google search usually finds me an app that will do it. I mostly use Epocrates, Dynamed, Medimath, Pubsearch and VisualDx for reference in the clinic or hospital. I also use iRadiology, Netter's anatomy, iMurmur, Instant ECG, NEJM app, or the Emory iPad/iPhone Board Review videos to study with when there is down time. ” 

As far as portability and infection control, Gabe sewed a iPad sized pocket inside his white coat. “It added no more weight than a couple quick references would.  Some white coats already have pockets wide enough to fit it. The iPad is easily cleaned with standard equipment wipes available in every hospital. It can also be used in the OR to review images, just put it in an x-ray cassette bag, cut off the top and tape it closed.”

 Another iPad  idea is to put it inside a one gallon plastic Ziploc bag that is replaced when needed. There are accessories such as a keyboard and stylus, but these are extra items that need to be carried and stored while seeing patients.The iPad 2 has video out capability (limited on the iPad1) that can be projected on a screen with a video adapter cord.iPad

  The future for the medical iPad may rest on electronic medical record (EMR) connectivity. There is a free Citrix app available that connects to some EMR programs. There are apps that allow excellent viewing of radiology images, EKGs, lab values vital signs and all other aspects of the EMR. If the iPad fits into the daily workflow of patient charting, reviewing diagnostic data, patient billing, patient/provider education and references, then it will be a time saver and worth it’s weight in gold.

 Just like the iPhone established the smartphone in the medical environment, iPad has set the pace for tablets. There are over 3,000 medical apps in the App store with developers pursuing the mass market. There will be a new wave of Android (Google), Black Berry (RIM), Windows (Microsoft), and WebOS (HP) tablets coming to the marketplace this next year to compete for Apple’s market share. Currently, Apple is on top of the hill and climbing.

 So, do you need a iPad? If your iPhone or iTouch screen is getting too small, then it is worth a look. Otherwise smaller may be better in the clinic and hospital. The best place to get news and app advice for your medical iLife is at

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