Hospital Residents Question Value of iPad For Clinical Rounding

Though the iPad has a sexy reputation — the Apple mystique is alive and well — it may not not necessarily the best tool to use for clinical rounding or education, according to a new study published in the Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine. That being said, there’s a lot of issues with the study, as you’ll see below.

First, the study design. During the 2011-2012 academic year, researchers gave iPads to 102 medical and surgical residents at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Ohio. The tablets were 16 GB iPad2 models with wireless Internet capabilities, reports iHealthBeat. The iPads had Wi-Fi but no cellular network connectivity, which left many residents complaining about hit-or-miss connectivity.

At the end of the academic year, researchers surveyed the residents to learn how iPad use had worked for them. What they found out was that while the residents largely liked the iPads, they didn’t find them useful for clinical rounding. On the other hand, though the study doesn’t address this directly, they had reason to be uncomfortable.

Of the 102 residents, only 14.7 percent used the iPad on rounds, and a scant 7.8 percent said the tablet helped them document care more efficiently. But it should be noted that the iPads were running only VMware View, not an iPad-native care system, forcing the residents to cope with an interface designed for seated users on keyboards.

Meanwhile, almost 58 percent of respondents said that the iPad was useful for sourcing articles outside of the hospital and 52 percent said the iPad was valuable for research.

The medical residents also valued the iPad for making recommendations to a colleague (58.3 percent), facilitating patient care (45.8 percent), as an educational tool (41.7 percent) and to view results and use as a guide for evidence-based practice (38.9 percent). (Surgical residents were much less impressed, with, for example, only 6.7 percent agreeing that the tablet was a valuable educational tool.)

Despite its flaws, the study does make one important point — that it’s well past time for EMR vendors to create iPad-usable interfaces, rather than forcing residents to use some awkwardly hacked version of their desktop/laptop product. If this study is any indication, large numbers of residents like the iPad a great deal, but they’re not going to use it for documentation unless they have a good user experience.  Vendors, your move.

P.S. By the way, if you want to read about a case in which iPads are being used in daily rounds, check out this piece from drChrono that was highlighted on the Apple iPad website.

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.

1 Comment

  • I couldn’t agree more with Anne’s closing statement. The utility of an iPad (or any mobile device) is determined by the efficacy of the app a physician is using; and yes, a native app will likely provide a superior user experience. That’s one reason why, for viewing patient data while rounding, thousands of physicians use PatientKeeper Mobile Clinical Results, and a growing number also use our native app for mobile CPOE, clinical documentation, charge capture and sign-out. Fortunately, native mobile clinical applications are now at a stage of development where physicians can perform many necessary tasks more efficiently and not have their workflow fragmented. When designed and deployed properly, these tools actually help physicians deliver better, more efficient patient care. The CMIO at VCU Medical Center in Richmond, VA, is a big fan of iPads for clinical rounding [check out http://wtvr.com/2013/05/14/vcu-medical-center-thrives-on-ipad-technology/%5D. Dr. Colin Banas says, “A lot of times on rounds, you’ll see the doctors pull out their smartphones or their tablets to do some quick look-up right before going to see a patient.” The bottom line for hospitals: When shopping for mHealth apps, place a premium on the physician user experience.

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