The iPad in the Doctor’s Office

So this new type of portable computer/notepad/netbook went on sale over the weekend.

It’s called the iPad – perhaps you’ve heard of it?

Seriously, I don’t know how much you’ve read or maybe you even stood in line last weekend and already bought an iPad for yourself, but current debates over the device include these:

– Whether it will save newspapers and magazines
– If its portability and ease of use for casual Internet users compensate for a virtual keyboard and the lack of USB ports
– Just how quickly will it destroy sales of other e-readers on the market?

Plus, I’ve been reading about the iPad’s possible role in transforming health care and the doctor/patient relationship in particular.

Consider this, from pediatric neurosurgeon Hal Meltzer in HealthLeaders Media,

Eventually, he thinks he and other doctors will use it, especially because its toy-like appearance may help explain medical issues to children in a less scary way.

“There’s so many possibilities,” said the neurosurgeon, who hopes that the device will save trips to the computer monitor to review MRI or CT images.

Yeah, I could see that.

And also: remember your kid’s asthma diagnosis, or maybe even all the appointments that led up to that diagnosis?

Remember all your confusion?

Now picture the pediatrician or ER doctor whipping out an iPad, showing you a video of a bronchospasm-induced coughing fit, and saying, “Does your kid ever sound/look like this? Because this is asthma.”

Or imagine if your pediatrician could play recordings from the R.A.L.E. Repository of Lung Sounds, instantly and right there in the examining room, so you can understand exactly what kind of respiratory symptoms to listen for at home.

Imagine the implications for earlier diagnosis and better at-home treatment for kids with conditions like asthma.

Physicians, assuming they’re interested in using iPads as teaching tools in clinical settings, could help parents/patients understand complex medical information better via visual and audio examples like these.

Improving comprehension = taking some of the guesswork out of recognizing and treating flares quickly and effectively.

I’ve been reading about at-home health applications for the iPad, too, like “Ask an Expert” at Unity Medical. Click on the far right video in that link to see a demonstration, but the application basically takes the symptom-checker concept of popular medical websites and amps it up several notches. It includes, for example, images of specific symptoms that help the user determine whether to make a doctor’s appointment or decide if a child is contagious.

Of course, you can find the same information yourself, today, without an iPad or this app through a simple Google image search, WebMD’s Symptom Checker, and reputable medical websites about specific conditions. It will just take you more time.

Overall, the health care applications look pretty exciting, possibly even game-changing, though this post is all conjecture. I’m not likely to own an iPad anytime soon since my laptop is dying, and saving for a new one on a freelancer’s income takes precedence over a device that probably couldn’t serve as my primary portable computing/telecommuting solution.

I could be wrong on that last bit, though. (Wouldn’t be the first time!) I’m interested to see how (if?) other bloggers and/or freelancers make the iPad work for them.

ETA: One doctor’s review of the iPad.

26 responses to “The iPad in the Doctor’s Office”

  1. Sara C. says:

    random question…have you seen one in person? Are they backlit? That’s why I love my Kindle…it’s opaque, and actually looks like ink on paper…it doesn’t strain my eyes like reading on the computer does.

    As for medical applications…I can see how it could be fabulous…but doctors would have to WANT to do it too…and my experience is that doctors don’t often want to take the extra even 2 minutes to explain something.

  2. Amy Anaruk says:

    I haven’t seen one in person yet, but according to the specs, it’s a 9.7 inch LED-backlit screen. Actually, no matter what criticisms reviewers have, everyone seems to love the sharp quality of the display.

  3. Matthew says:

    Is an Ipad not just a small laptop or is that something else I am thinking of. For some reason the other thing that comes to mind is something similiar to a Ipod perhaps a little bigger than an Ipod.

  4. Sara C. says:

    to me, it looks like an ipod on steroids…actually a friend of mine wondered to me why they came up with a new name…when it could have just been called “ipod XL”

    The fact that it’s backlit would make reading a book on it difficult for me…that’s something that the 3 big ereaders have in common, that they aren’t backlit. I’ll be interested to see one in person. My other thought is will it just use the kindle app that’s available on ipod and iphone now, or will they come out with their own e reader technology.

    I love technology, though…even though I don’t have a need for it…so I can’t wait to see it (I really just want a nice ipod touch, though)

  5. Amy says:

    “iPod XL”…..every time I start typing “iPad,” it usually comes out “iPod,” lol.

    They’re very similar, but the iPad does have a longer battery life (10 hrs), higher screen resolution, ability to run software, etc….best description I’ve read is, it fills the gap between a smartphone and a laptop.


    Question is, does anyone need that gap filled?
    I don’t know how popular it’ll be, although Apple sold way more than projected last weekend, but I do think it could work like nothing else has before, in certain settings. (like clinical ones)

  6. Allie says:

    The hubs is working on an iPad presentation for a client and it is absolutely amazing! I know the iPad got a lot of criticism for what it wasn’t – namely a full-blown computer – but I do think it has a lot of uses that a personal computer user wouldn’t need or consider to be of benefit – sales, medical, school lessons, public speaking aid, etc. It’s pretty amazing.

  7. Amy says:

    So do you guys get to keep it, or does he have to give it back? :)

  8. wheezyheron says:

    Just re-read this article and thought of the greatest justification for buying an iPad yet – would make it much simpler to take pf charts, symptom logs etc along to the doctors… especially if someone finally made a decent asthma tracking app.

    At the moment I get kind of fed up with making printouts etc at the last moment before I go in (especially if you’re going in because of a flare not just a check-up)

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