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.
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.
*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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
*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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