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Brave New world of iPad Computing

After all of the discussion  and political debate about EHRs; the pros andcons, the deadlines, the training, the difficulty that so many doctors seem tohave adapting their practice to a model that incorporates an electronic healthrecord, and use of the computer during the patient visit, the world has changedonce again. Enter the iPad.

In many physicians’ offices,patients arrive to find an iPad waiting for them where they can fill in currentproblems, allergies, symptoms, and medications with the touch of a finger. Whenthe nurse takes the patient to an examining room to check vitals, thatinformation is also recorded on an iPad. All of this data is instantaneously transferredto the doctor’s iPad and is available during the office visit. When the officevisit is over, the doctor dictates notes directly into an iPad. The full set ofpatient data is then automatically stored in the patient’s electronic healthrecord. Annoying issues of eye contact and personal communication with doctorswho use desktop systems that can become a barrier to communication go away. The1.3 pound iPad sits between the provider and the patient, can be seen by bothindividuals and does not become a diversion. 

iPads are also easy to use andmaintain and do not require the learning curve or the overhead of largercomputer systems that doctors have resisted for so long. Implementing an iPad-basedelectronic health record qualifies doctors for the stimulus money allocated bythe 2009 Stimulus Package as long as they adhere to the meaningful use definitions. The Electronic Health Record softwarefor the iPad is supplied by the familiar players:  Allscripts, Prima, Meditouch and Eclipse andother vendors who have been developing EHR software for years and havehopefully worked the bugs out of their systems.

In the brave new world of usingIPads, physicians and hospitalists also take them right to the patient’sbedside where they can view the patient’s chart together and determine nextsteps. Doctors who make house calls to home-bound patients are using iPadsloaded up with the patients’ electronic health records, x-rays, lab tests, andprocedures, that they can share and discuss. IPads are even used today inemergency departments to track movement of patients and staff and record orders.

There is a downside to using aniPad that contains extensive patient data and can be carried in a pocket. Privacyof health information is serious. It is important that the data is encrypted,and that iPad users are diligent about insuring that their iPad is with them atall times, so it cannot be stolen. 

Did Steve Jobs ever envision thatthe iPad would become an important device in the delivery of healthcare? Onecan only wonder.

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