iPads for Yale med students

Entering Yale medical students will receive a new Apple iPad loaded with apps relevant to their curriculum, reports Chelsea Conaboy for the Boston Globe‘s health care professions blog (link here):

Yale School of Medicine this year will outfit all students with iPads and no longer provide printed course materials. The initiative, born out of a going-green effort, could save the school money in the long run, said Assistant Dean for Curriculum Mike Schwartz.

…The iPad has enough security tools that the students can use them to store health information in their clinical years. Eventually, the iPads will sync to hospital electronic health records, though Schwartz said that capability likely won’t be available for at least a year.

…A side note: Privacy is paramount when dealing with health information, and mobile devices pose a particular challenge because they are easily lost or stolen.

“Gee whiz” and “uh oh”

I had two conflicting reactions when I read this.

The first reaction was amazement over the supersonic emergence of the tablet computer, a market thoroughly dominated by the iPad. A couple of years ago, tablets were unheard of. When Apple released the iPad, many industry experts and reviewers scoffed at it. This is an incredible story of a product creating and then largely occupying a brand new market.

I’m no computer expert, but I was one of the skeptics. Within a year or so, however, I was drooling over iPads at Apple Stores. When the iPad 2 came out, I was a goner. I feared I would play with it for a few weeks and then put it away, like a kid who quickly tires of a birthday present he had obsessed over for months. But I find it’s not only a great entertainment machine, but also very handy for out-of-town trips to conferences and meetings.

The second reaction was concern. The iPad is a thin, light slab of metal, and as the article notes, it’s “easily lost or stolen.” The idea that important medical records and information — er, make that my medical records and information — could be stored in there is a little disconcerting.

Even the internal pull-up keyboard and the available plug-in keyboards raise concerns about fast and accurate typing of information. Overall, I just don’t think of the iPad as a heavy-duty work machine. I have no idea if the folks at Apple ever imagined it would be used for such purposes, and I hope the machine is built strong enough to withstand it.

Here to stay?

Are tablets a transitional, passing fancy or a new computer staple? The tablet market remains a relatively small one, but the emerging use of tablets for work purposes — an increasingly frequent sight not only in airport waiting areas but also in meeting rooms — suggests the latter.

I just hope the med students aren’t playing “Angry Birds” during the lecture on how to do an appendectomy.

2 responses

  1. My neurologist uses a tablet computer in his practice. He downloads all the test results for each patient and completes his final assessment before going on to the next patient. He’s amazingly quick and accurate. With other physicians; missing or misplaced medical records cause errors and repeat testing. I think that password protected computerized records are an appropriate way to deliver health care. The French key all their medical records to a chip in their ID cards so that every treating physician has access to all of the patient’s records instantly. Part of the costs associated with our health care system is paper shuffling. Without that, care would be less costly and more effective.

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