iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

The iPad has finally been released and we’ve got our hands on one so we can provide the medical community a healthcare perspective of the device.  Here are my initial impressions.

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

Fits in your white coat

The iPad should fit comfortably your white coat.  If you continue on to the rest of the review you’ll see pictures of the device easily settling into my white coat, along with my stethoscope.  Granted, my white coat has been thoroughly stretched out with mini medical reference books, papers, and medical devices, but even with a fresh white coat, you shouldn’t have problems tucking it away.

The iPad feels heavy in your hands (1.5 pounds), but is thin, measuring half an inch in depth.  The ends are tapered, making it feel significantly thinner.  The heavy feel is almost welcome and assuring, it makes the iPad feel strong – making you feel like a drop, with a case on it, wouldn’t break it.  This type of build quality is expected from an Apple device.

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

*note, the iPad can go deeper into the pockets of my coat, but I left a bit out for the sake of the picture.

Fast enough for healthcare point of care use

When Apple announced a custom designed 1GHz Apple A4 processor, heads turned.  The processors on previous versions of the iPhone were not custom designed by Apple in a similar fashion, but Apple wanted a chip that delivered high performance, while maxing out battery life.

Health care point of care use — using the iPad while seeing a patient — requires the ability to pull up key information quickly, or the physician patient experience suffers.  I really can’t emphasize how fast the iPad is.  Applications load faster than on an iPhone.  Web-surfing is faster than your run of the mill desktop or laptop.  I compared the web surfing experience (time to load a site) to a one year old Macbook, and the iPad won every time.  Plus, websites pull up in a similar fashion – you don’t have to deal with a mobile version of a website anymore.

Below are screen shots of how some medical reference sites, such as Epocrates and Access Medicine, look on the iPad’s screen:

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

This is welcome news to electronic health vendors, whose software is often heavy on system resources.  EMR vendors and medical app developers should have no problem making complex, feature rich software.

Beautiful display

The 9.7 inch LED, multi touch, 1024 by 768 pixel display is breath taking.  Seeing radiology images is going to be a breeze on this device.  I can’t wait to see OsiriX and iRadiology customized for the device.

Unfortunately, only apps that have been customized for the iPad can really utilize this display.  Most of the apps we mentioned in our “Top 5 Medical Apps for the Upcoming iPad” post have not been customized as such yet.  All iPhone apps will run, but unless they have been customized specifically, the screen resolution on the apps is pixilated and not aesthetically pleasing.  We’ll touch on this in our conclusion.

Reading is done with ease.  The following are screen shots of the app, “Papers”, an app that allows you to search and store medical literature easily on your device.  The following screen shots are of the iPad version of this app, and we’ll have a full review of it soon.

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine


The keyboard was initially frustrating.  It feels awkward holding your fingers in traditional keyboard stance, and then not having feedback when you push down.  If I had posted a review the first day I had the iPad, this section would have been relatively negative.  With that said, after some use, I think the keyboard is relatively functional.

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

I’m surprised by how fast I can now type with it.  It definitely takes longer than a traditional keyboard, but not by much.  Apple is selling a keyboard that will connect directly to the device, or you have the option of using a bluetooth keyboard that can sync for typing, a more practical method.

Having handwriting recognition capability is going to be essential for healthcare point of care use.  We’ve mentioned this in a previous post, and hopefully the iPad software updates will produce this functionality.

Battery life

The battery life is stunning on this device.  Apple claims you can squeeze approximately 10 hours out of it, but other reviewers have been able to get more.  From my use of the iPad so far, I’d have to agree.  A long battery life is essential and really a competitive advantage over other tablets, especially other healthcare tablets.

If you want to use the iPad as a medical reference in your practice, or as a means to show patients pictures or videos, the battery life will be of no concern to you.


If you plan to use the iPad in your health care practice, I’d suggest the below case:

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

It folds around to cover the screen, and can also be propped up in the above fashion.  This case enables you to talk to a patient while easily being able to use one or two hands to type or search for key information.  Again, handwriting recognition will be key.

iPad review for doctors: A hands on guide for medicine

*Above is a picture of the iPad in relation to a large Dunkin Doughnuts coffee and a pen.  (Essential “accessories”)


Overall, I was pleased with what the iPad had to offer.  The device was significantly faster than I anticipated and the screen was brilliant.  Does this mean medical professionals should go out and get the iPad for their clinic use? Not necessarily.

We’ll have more posts explaining some of the pitfalls of the App Store in relation to the lack of medical applications customized for the iPad.

We’ve been talking to developers of medical applications, and will fill you in on what they are doing to make sure their iPhone medical apps are fully utilizing the iPad and delivering a great user experience.

Iltifat Husain is founder and editor of iMedicalApps.com.

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  • Kent

    I’m impressed that you got it into your pocket. ;-)

  • http://Pagingdoctorgeek.blogspot.com DrGeek

    While it fits in a pocket on my white coat, it’s a tight fit. Luckily, the local shop where we get our coats is tailoring a deeper, slightly wider pocket on the inside of my new coat, just for the iPad. I’m also contemplating a ScottEVest for daily wear.
    One thing you didn’t mention directly, I’ve been using a remote desktop to use the iPad in clinic instead of my usual laptop. The speed over wifi is nearly flawless, and the full functionality of the laptop program structure is readily available.
    Overall, it’s been an amazing piece of hardware, and I look forward to the new medical software in the pipeline for the next few weeks…

  • Brian

    Only problem with any sort of widespread use of Apple products in the medical field is that it simply isn’t cost-effective for an employer to supply them. This is especially so considering Apple’s upgrade policy: Buy a new one.

    • http://www.cnmri.com Bob Varipapa

      Our hospital wastes a ton of money on junk. $499 is cheap (and the price will probably drop over the next year or two).

      How much do you think a COW (computer on wheels costs?) or IT-acquired laptop/tablet costs?

  • http://www.imedicalapps.com iltifat


    You bring up a great point, and usually with apple products, you’re right, they aren’t cost effective. But when it comes to the medical community, they actually offer a cheaper alternative, because medical tablet pcs are often above $1,000 per tablet: As seen here

    Also, unlike Windows, apple’s upgrades of its operating systems are significantly cheaper, about $10 for iPod Touch devices, and free software upgrades for the iPhone. Granted, the new iPhone OS 4.0 won’t upgrade the original iPhone that came out, but that phone is now 3 years old. But with the last 2 years of updates to the operating system, the original iPhone was given free upgrades.

    If anything, the iPad offers a significantly cheaper alternative to healthcare providers. Now its up to software developers to make use of the device, and there are definitely other hardware barriers that need to be addressed – durability, etc…..

    • http://www.drrjv.com Bob Varipapa

      Plus, you don’t have the cost of maintaining a Windows computer. Even if you were to screw up the iPad OS, all one has to do is connect to iTunes and hit ‘Restore’.

  • Evinx

    This article is spot on. I have one + it is exactly as Iltifat Husain describes.

    IMO, the case is essential. It protects the screen when not in use. More importantly, the 1.5 lbs will feel heavy without the case. The case will allow for a better distribution of weight if you are holding the iPad in your hand. As stated, you can also use its easel functions too.

  • Dr Lemmon

    I like mine. The Kindle app is great to use the device an eBook reader. NEJM is available as a kindle subscription.

    • http://www.cnmri.com Bob Varipapa

      You can also bring up NEJM on the web browser.

  • Yious

    Another brought up financial issues and that is what I thought

    I would love to see my doctor with tools like that if it helps but considering doctors are already complaining about medical school bills (rightfully so, btw) and how hospitals are in so much debt….I am not sure WHERE hosptials would find the money to get their doctors these

  • http://www.consentcare.com Martin Young

    Do you need a stylus, and are there pdf annotation programs that will work on it?

    The reason I ask is that I have a web-based consent system that was designed for tablet pc’s and I am very keen to know well the iPad handles it!

  • http://www.iMedicalApps.com Iltifat
  • http://www.rashlanut-refuit.info רשלנות

    This device may not be perfect but as it grows and developed rapidly over the next year or two we will see a revolution in hand held mobile technology. Certainly in education if we can work out licensing for books on the iPad and have tools to standardise the interface and what is on the iPad teaching and learning will be transformed. Even simple apps like mover – when it comes to peer assessment will be revolutionary. Yes it needs a camera, yes it needs flash/HTML5 and yes it needs multi-tasking, but up to now tablet PCs have been useless in education – too clunky, too expensive, not flexible enough. The iPad will see a new generation of learning.

  • Healthcare IT Guy

    We were able to run a large number of our medical applications including our Epic System’s Hyperspace using the free citrix client for iPad. If your hospital is delivering applications via the citrix thin client I highly recommend trying it. It blew me away.

  • http://www.silvercensus.com/ Steffan Lozinak

    If you wait a bit to get one, they will be coming out with a 3g iPad soon meaning internet available everywhere. Just something to keep in mind :-)

  • Brian


  • http://lostonroute66.com David Hale

    My main concern is the glass display. What happens when someone drops an iPad on rounds, or worse, in the OR? Or is this a non-issue for clinicians?

  • http://iMedicalApps.com Iltifat


    Good question. The iPad feels solid in the hands, but you’re right, glass is glass at the end of the day. I think many of these problems can be fixed by having a durable case. The accessory industry for Apple is absolutely huge, as we talked about in one of our posts, and we mentioned having a medical grade case as well.

  • http://www.cnmri.com Bob Varipapa

    I had my iPod bouncing around in the back of my Rhino unprotected (slid out of my camera case) and it was fine.

    I think it is at least as sturdy as any laptop (or netbook) and easily better protected with a nice case:






  • http://www.healthymagination.com/ Healthymagination

    Nice article. We think the iPad might prove just as valuable for patients as it does for doctors. Thanks to a host of new medical apps, it shows promise to improve the doctor-patient relationship and provide handy medical references for healthcare professionals and the general public. We wrote a blog post on the subject: http://www.healthymagination.com/blog/visualizing-medicine-on-the-ipad/

  • Paul Ford

    Would be interested in hearing from Healthcare IT guy what they had to do to get Epic Hyperspace to run – tried today but got Java error messages.

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