Can iPads Make Docs More Efficient? There Are Many Views

Posted on March 14, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

As some may recall, I wrote a piece a couple of months ago about a disastrous iPad implementation at a Seattle hospital. The doctors all gave back their tablet, saying that they couldn’t work with it, and the hospital ended up implementing a thin client solution.

Here’s an interesting follow-up, in which the iPad came out looking great.

A new study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a group of internal medicine students actually did become more efficient by slinging iPads. Researchers with the journal surveyed 115 internal medicine residents affiliated with the University of Chicago before and after giving them iPads to access EMRs, the hospital paging system and medical publications,  Reuters reports. Ninety-five percent of  students said the set-up improved their efficiency.

How did the hospital make the iPad set up work?  According to a piece in, U of C took great care to help make the iPad integrate well, including the following:

User support

— Used Citrix to grant access the hospital’s Epic system

— Documented carefully how Epic works with Citrix, including materials showing residents how to find local printers

— Spelled out some advantages of an iPad/Epic marriage, including addressing patient issues while in conference the capacity to discharge patients on rounds


— Explained how to address the problem if the resident’s iPad is stolen, including a policy that residents couldn’t store patient data on the iPad

Obviously, one prominent success and one prominent failure aren’t going to settle the issue of whether iPads are the future of medicine.   And while Android isn’t getting a lot of talk  in medical circles, I wouldn’t count out Android apps by a long shot. Plus, I’m sure John would passionately argue for a native iPad EHR app versus a Citrix connection.

Still, it’s interesting to see a case study in which doctors are neither frustrated nor burnt out by iPad use. I’m not sure if conditions can be replicated — after all, interns are young, eager and more prone to be tech-friendly — but it’s worth considering all the same.