The iPad goes third-year

UC Irvine Students will bring their iPads out of the classroom and onto their clinical rounds.

Lots of medical schools use iPad textbooks in the classroom. Now some are moving them into clinical settings.

IRVINE, CA – This past fall, as the academic year got under way, medical schools across the country, from Brown to Stanford, were tossing out heavy and expensive textbooks in favor of fully-loaded and interactive iPads. Now that spring is here, it's time for the iPad to graduate: moving out of the classroom and into the clinical setting.

Warren Wiechmann, MD, faculty director for instructional technologies at UC Irvine School of Medicine saw the device's potential early on. "When we launched our program in August of 2010, the iPad was only a few months old," he said last fall. But he saw right away that it "was the only device that could hold all the books and content necessary for medical school and provided a platform that was scalable for other apps and technologies to help augment the curriculum."

As medicine evolves apace – becoming "more and more connected and mobile," he says, "new issues and problems arise that we need to be prepared for: the ePatient, social media and medicine, virtual practices and even topics as simple as how do you curate the web for our patients. All of these things are starting to be addressed within our curriculum at UC Irvine. In this instance, the iPad becomes the 'conversation starter' that gets our students and faculty thinking about these issues in medicine."

Beyond those capabilities, however, it's clear the iPad is beginning to find a foothold in clinical settings. More and more vendors are developing EHRs for the tablets. Five times as many doctors own iPads than the population at large. So UC Irvine, along with other schools such as Yale, is moving the device into third-year internships.

Not everyone has quite come around on the idea. Writing on the Student Doctor Network Forums (forums.studentdoctor.net), one med student – not at UC Irvine – wondered about the propriety of bringing an iPad on his shadowing rounds."

"Rule number one. Don't be that guy," wrote one fellow student. "Would just look weird and probably be a pain to carry," wrote another. "Very useful for providing the residents with new comic relief," joked a third.

But Wiechmann says the 110 third-year students about to start carrying iPads in a hospital setting will soon see the value.

"The hospital has decided to embrace the iPad as their main mobile strategy for healthcare," he says. Other pilots have shown iPhones and iPod touches are great for communication and barcode scanning and medication reconciliation," but only the iPad offers the "real estate" to look at lots of patients and look at trends, "to go through and look at labs and put in orders and pull up radiology. The iPad is the ideal format to do that."

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