Why is the iPad be revolutionary for doctors and nurses?

As a nurse, I spend a lot of time with other nurses. When they ask me to explain why I think the iPad is great, I respond with the following metaphor: imagine that you are a nurse who has been asked to design a new hospital from scratch. You are free to question every prior assumption, to throw out old ideas that no longer fit, to redesign everything according to the way healthcare is actually practiced today—not the way it was practiced thirty years ago. This is the kind of opportunity Apple has had with the iPad.

The iPad’s engaging experience wouldn’t be possible if Apple had shipped the iPad with a glossed-over version of its desktop OS. That is what PC tablet manufacturers have been doing for years, with dismal results. Conventional software, designed for a mouse and keyboard, isn’t usable with a touchscreen display.

Instead, iOS (the operating system that runs the iPad and the iPhone) was designed from the ground up to be touched by the human hand. The hardware is so unobtrusive that it practically disappears. The result is a software experience that is easy and personal. Young and old alike can pick up an iPad and begin using it without any guidance, and with equal delight.

The extreme portability of the iPad makes it suitable for all kinds of tasks that don’t make sense on a laptop or a netbook. Apple’s own native apps inspire third-party developers to create apps that extend the delight and utility of the core experience into new use cases.

Why will the iPad be revolutionary for doctors and nurses? They have fast-paced jobs that require them to create and access lots of patient information in real time. The information they work with is complex and multi-form. They need apps that are smart enough to organize this information in a meaningful way, and on devices that are always with them as they move throughout the hospital. The iPad is ideal for this kind of use.

Of course, none of this will be possible without well-designed clinical apps. The iPad is not revolutionary because of its hardware, but because of the UX design renaissance that it has inspired. Smart developers will build apps that are designed for the needs of actual doctors and nurses. They will begin and end at the bedside, applying the best design practices learned in other fields. Unlike the frustrating desktop clients that have been the status quo for over a decade, the new breed of clinical apps will respect the workflows of the end users. Only in this way will the iPad be revolutionary for hospitals.

Jared Sinclair is an ICU nurse who blogs at jaredsinclair + com.

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