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The iPad was released on April 3rd, 2010. It’s rapid sales in its first release days were partly attributed to the prior success of the iPhone , whose technology was adapted to function on the larger 9.5 x 7.5 inch iPad. By this time also the App Store, from which software is downloaded for the iPhone and other “i-devices”, had matured to offer approximately 150,000 applications at the time of initial iPad sales. (1)

iPad usage in healthcare

Portable computers are not new in health care delivery, but it was not until the development of handheld pda’s and later smartphones that medical providers began to significantly incorporate mobile devices into their practices. Tablet PC’s had not gained much traction in healthcare settings, however, until the recent release of the iPad, and its subsequent competitors. Though much buzz has been generated, and it seems that this device is a leap forward in tablet PC technology, it remains unclear whether the iPad will be regarded as a transformative device in healthcare delivery, as opposed to a niche technology for the gadget-inclined providers. This wiki article will examine some of the recent press and feedback on the iPad and its role in health care.

Ipad 2 was released less than a year later and had incorporated some technical advancements, most notably a high definition camera and faster processor speed (7)

Healthcare educators and providers have considered the use of iPad in both teaching and clinical settings, and initial feedback has been generated on its use.

iPad/iPad 2 Pros (2,3,5):

  • Readable display in clinical settings
  • Brings information, like clinical images, directly to bedside
  • Excellent battery life covers entire “shift” work duration, in hospitals and emergency departments
  • High definition camera for clinical image capture
  • More mobile than COWs (Computer On Wheels) and lighter compared to most first generation tablets
  • Access to many medical reference applications and eBooks
  • Lower cost than many alternative tablets or laptops

iPad/iPad 2 Cons (2,3):

  • Durability of device in emergency room or hospital environment
  • Infection control concerns/ability to disinfect the device
  • Lack of biometric identification for access to secure records/difficulty entering strong passwords
  • Touch screen keyboard inadequate for heavy documentation purposes, requiring physical keyboard attachments
  • Does not fit easily into pocket

Roll out

Since the rollout of iPad 2, Apple has showcased use of the iPad in healthcare settings, and featured an interview with Dr. John Halamka, CIO for Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who stated that the iPad “will change the way doctors practice medicine”. (4) “The secret for the ideal clinical device,’’ he said, “is it has to weigh a pound, it has to last 10 hours, because that’s their shift, you have to be able to disinfect it so there’s no risk of contamination, and you have to be able to drop it 5 feet onto carpet without damage.’’(4)

At Beth Israel Deaconess, Dr. Henry Feldman notes the key difference for the iPad is its ability to do real clinical work at the bedside, in a stairwell, and on rounds, with the ability to share images and data with patients to promote their understanding of their condition. (3,4)

In ambulatory settings, providers have noted the portability of the device, similar to that of a patient chart, and in contrast to that of a workstation or even a laptop PC. (5) Others also note time savings in allowing rapid retrieval of educational images on the iPad when discussing procedures with patients. (5)

In medical education, programs such as Loyola’s Dept of Orthopedic Surgery, and Stanford University School of Medicine have issued iPads to trainees. Stanford plans to analyze in detail ways in which iPad usage facilitated, or interfered with, student’s educational activities. (5)

In pursuit of meaningful use criteria, some EHR vendors have sought to incorporate iPad usage to help facilitate EHR adoption by users, due to its ease of use and interactivity, as well as low cost and potential connectivity with a cloud based EHR server. (5)

The iPad is, of course, not without competition, and several other manufacturers have promoted alternate devices, some specifically marketed toward healthcare environment device needs. These include the Motion C5, Panasonic Toughbook H1, Blackberry BlackPad, Dell Streak, and Cisco Cius.(6)


  1. http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/03/05ipad.html
  2. http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/2010/04/ipad-goes-live-at-bidmc.html
  3. http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/2010/06/cool-technology-of-week_11.html
  4. http://articles.boston.com/2011-04-04/business/29380774_1_ipad-tablet-computers-ulcer
  5. http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/02/07/bisa0207.htm
  6. http://mobihealthnews.com/8731/infographic-sizing-up-the-ipad-for-healthcare/
  7. http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/03/02ipad.html

See also: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/43739774#43739774 use of iPad for fetal heart monitoring.

Submitted by Michael Tierney