Spotlight on Tech: The iPad in Healthcare

Apple changed the game. I have to admit that before the iPad was launched I was sceptical, I mean I’ve got a laptop and it does everything. This’s just going to be a tech fad.

I was wrong. The day I lay my hands on one I knew I had to have one.

Shortly, after that I began reading stories about iPads popping up in hospitals and clinics around the world. Even in the cash strapped NHS there are iPad initiatives! Since, I started making the transition from doctor to consultant I’ve become a strong advocate for the role of consumer technology on the wards and in the clinic. Today, I’ll present some of the potential roles of the iPad in healthcare that could make a difference.

1. In Multi-disciplinary Meetings

During my time in intensive care we would have daily meetings to discuss all our patients involving a whole host of different specialists. The microbiologists always needed access to their own private network and so with the help of IT they funded a departmental iPad that patched into the Windows based Microbiology network. This allowed them to access all our patients’ test results, specimens and even adjust the tests that had been ordered. What’s more they could do this all at the bedside too when we moved to our walking rounds.


2. On the Ward Round

Ward rounds are the most tiresome of experiences for junior doctors as you walk around a ward seeing patients and collating a list of jobs for each patient from ‘the boss’. Those with initiative figure out ways of doing jobs as they go along, whether its carrying stack of investigation forms, preparing results in advance or even wheeling around a desktop computer (a COW, Computer on Wheels). However, some have been known to bring their own personal iPads, get them patched in and so be able to access, view and order tests as they go around. Then there are all the apps and calculators you can get…


But it goes further than that as some NHS trusts are using iPads at the ends of beds for patients to record their service feedback and experience as a part of a trust wide improvement exercise.

Patient feedback at Ipswich Hospital

3. Radiology & Surgery

Access to patient imaging is absolutely crucial for surgery, whether its for pre-operative planning or whether its for orientation intra-operatively the two fields are inextricably linked. The facts that a sterile, cassette cover still seems to allow the screen to work even whilst wearing gloves really could be a game changer. Accessing, adjusting and editing images in front of you as an operation goes could make life easier for the surgeon but may be an exemplary intra-operative teaching tool for junior surgeons.

3D Virtual Reality algorithms are already being used by surgeons to allow them to see exactly where they are by holding their iPads over a patient in theatre to see where they are in relation to the organs or pathological tissue they are operating on.

4. In the Community

Most healthcare is undertaken in the community through family practitioners. They treat the coughs, the colds, the diabetics and the recovering. Most of their work involves monitoring and health checks through both home visits and practice appointments. A lot of their work is done through nurses in the community. iPads could be used to remotely access the GP surgery whilst out on a visit, it can be used by extension to share data quickly between the remote and base site.

The multitude of apps available on for all Apple devices mean that patients can also share data with their doctors. They can keep a track of their sugar readings, blood pressure, diet and a whole host of other measures via their smart phones which can then be accessed by their doctor on their own device or even from home via their iPad.

I mean doctors are already getting on the bandwagon creating apps to even monitor pacemakers and defibrillators remotely! Institutions in the states are using software which will notify a doctor via mobile if a patient has an ‘alert event’ which more often than not involves a smartphone and in all likelihood an Apple device.

The iPad is just another piece of technology but it’s so flexible that it’s only limited in its use by our capacity to innovate .

Has the iPad made a difference to you? Are you in healthcare? Have Your Say, [RE]Tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd


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