Medical Schools Going For iPads

Recently I came upon two interesting data points which support the idea that iPads are catching fire in the world of academic medicine:

*  University of California at Irvine’s medical school has an initiative underway, known as iMedEd, whose mission includes giving new iPads to every member of its incoming med school class.  The tablets, which were first issued last year, come loaded with all of the materials students need for their first year.

*  Stanford University’s School of Medicine began distributing iPads to incoming students in 2010, arguing that the new technology would help them “make significant changes to the current model of medical school education.”

Meanwhile, high-profile medical blogger Kevin MD has gone so far as to say that iPads should be mandatory for medical school students, and it’s hard to argue that there’s something big happening here. And he’s not alone.

Interestingly, much of the action seems to have taken place in a rush, about mid-2010. My Google searches didn’t turn up any more recent examples of medical schools going wild for iPad technology (though med bloggers continue to stump for the iPad as though they were working for Apple’s marketing department).

Still, my instinct is that the Stanford and UC Irvine examples of iPad adoption aren’t just flashes in the pan. Honestly, despite my deep and abiding love for my iPhone, I sort of “don’t get it” when it comes to the iPad. Still, it’s hard to argue that there’s a groundswell of support for the device’s use in medicine.

However, don’t get your hopes up that this will create a generation of EMR-friendly doctors. From what I’ve been told, even schools that tap into the iPad’s neat capabilities are still teaching students to document medical data the old-fashioned way — dictation or hand-written notes.  Oh well — you can only push through so much cultural change at a time.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Whether it’s the iPad or a computer, the cool part is that most of the “medical books” that medical students use to study now can be had electronically. That’s a nice change.

  • Dr. West:

    Interesting that you think iPads are transitional. Any gut feeling as to what may replace them?

    As I said in the article, I really haven’t “drunk the Koolaid” regarding iPads for a few reasons:

    – They’re not really laptops or phones
    – Keyboarding info into them is a pain
    – They’re fairly expensive (for a consumer at least)
    – I don’t find them that intuitive to use despite years of iPhone ownership

    But still, I have the feeling that they’ve found a permanent place in some niches, notably in education — following on Apple’s long history of doing very well with schools/universities. Whether they stay put in medical education is anyone’s guess.


  • I think it was significant that Google announced at their IO conference about a toolkit for Droid tablets that will allow for companies to make devices that connect to the Droid tablet. I think that could be a game changer when it comes to healthcare’s use of the iPad like tablets.

    In fact, I should write a post about it.

  • Katherine, it’s just a gut feeling I have. But it’s for a lot of the reasons you cite above, price, ongoing monthly fee beyond the price, usability (keyboard typing issue), etc. I haven’t bought one yet and the longer I wait, the less convinced I am that I would need one. My iPhone already does most of what I would use an iPad for.

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