Using the iPad Mini in the hospital: One doctor’s experience

Using the iPad Mini in the hospital: One doctors experience

On my birthday several weeks ago, I was lucky to get an iPad Mini from my husband. I already have an iPad and have shared my experience. In fact, we gave all of our residents iPads (one of them contacted Steve Jobs and got a response), and documented an improvement in efficiency on the wards. So why the Mini? What is all the fuss? Well, after finishing 2 weeks on service, I can finally tell you why the Mini is the new must-have for doctors and future doctors.

  1. It fits in your white coat! Yes, while there were entrepeneurs who started creating the iCoat, the truth is who wants to wear a coat with a huge pocket on the side? This means that you also don’t need to wear the “strap’ that we require our residents to wear for the iPad since we did not yet invest in the iCoat.
  2. You can hold it in one hand! This for me is the best part and very underappreciated point in the blogs and reviews I have read. This means you can tough the screen with one hand while you are palming it with the other. I don’t even have the largest hands so I would say it definitely was just at the reach of my palm grasp but I can imagine it would be perfect for my male colleagues.
  3. It fits in your purse! While the female docs may find palming the iPad mini not as easy as the men, never fear…since this one is for the ladies. Many female doctors are always on a quest to find the right handbag/workbag combination. Owning an iPad always meant buying boxy “folio” type purses or shoving it to barely fit in a handbag. The mini is the PERFECT size for a medium size handbag – hobo or satchel. This means that you can go from day to night without carrying your “work bag” to the restaurant. And for the men out there, you can always get a “murse” this holiday season. I hear that they are making a big splash.
  4. You’ll carry it more. Number 1 through 3 really boil down to the fact that it is hard to carry the iPad. Because it is so easy to carry, you won’t find yourself without access to the electronic health record or paging directory. You may be more apt to show patients their images or X-rays or look something up because it is not as hard to use.
  5. You’ll make friends. Basically the minute I brought out the Mini, everyone…nurses, social workers, residents, students, and yes patients were interested in seeing it – “Mini envy” as my students called it. It’s a conversation starter that can improve collegiality and teamwork. When I visited floors that I did not usually work on (overflow patients), I met a nurse who asked me about the Mini – and the next day, she came to our rescue when we were trying to decipher the timing of a patient’s medication and a potential new allergy.
  6. It is more discrete to use at a conference (once everyone stops staring). The Mini is smaller so a bit more stealth in terms of answering a text page or checking a lab while you are sitting in case conference, and you can easily stash it back in your purse as noted above.

Some things to think about. The Mini is not without its pitfalls – many of which are predictable due to its size and interface.

  1. For the visually challenged, it can be hard to see. Sure… you can always “magnify” things with the correct gestures. But, if you are in your Citrix Client looking at your electronic health record, it may not be so easy to magnify and you may have to hold it up closer to your face which can be awkward. Maybe I just need to get my vision tested? Either way, something to be aware of.
  2. Easy to lose. As part of the residency program project, the nice thing about the iPad with strap is you an see it on the resident and its harder to walk off with. The Mini could disappear in a snap. Could someone even “pick-pocket” a doctor coat? Very possible.
  3. It is not a complete substitute for a workstation or pen and paper. This is not unique to the Mini. There is a reason that mobile tablet computing is not a complete substitute for a workstation – the lack of a keyboard. As a result, some our residents carry “paper notes” with their iPad – the paper notes are to take notes of the to-do list that is created on rounds -nothing like checking all those boxes off as an intern. The iPad does not replace that so readily – and while there others thinking about this space, its worth noting that the preference for pen and paper to organize one’s thoughts is very strong. I have to admit, watching the catchy commercial for the Windows Surface, there is still something so appealing about an external keyboard.

So what is the verdict for the Mini? Well, as we say in medicine, the risks of the Mini are outweighed by its benefits making it the perfect prescription for all the physicians or physicians to be in your life.

Vineet Arora is an internal medicine physician who blogs at FutureDocs.  

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  • Poppy Rich

    The verdict for the Mini is that it sure isn’t a substitute for a doctor who knows what he is doing. Quit playing with toys and be a better doctor, you don’t need an iPad for that, although I’m sure it helps you monitor your bank balance better.

    • Pascal

      And you base your verdict base on… your opinion? It sure doesn’t sound like you have given it much thought. You know that there are great apps out there that help you calculate that creatinine clearance faster and more accurate than the formula you still remember from med school 40 years back? Or that can tell you about possible med interactions? Not considering these devices as assets is just as foolish as solely relying on them.

  • Ferkham pasha


  • Keith Grimes

    The form factor (7″ tab) is key here. I have a Galaxy Nexus 7 and find I use it much more than my iPad, mainly because it is easier to carry. The Android market is much poorer than the iOS one for apps, but all the key functions are present and correct.

    • aptalca

      Much poorer? How so?

      Yes, it is much poorer when it comes to “fart” apps. But any quality apps, I don’t really see a difference?

  • Me

    Great, a new toy everyone wants to have. Anyone ever think about security? Keep in mind it is the patients data, it belongs to them, you are allowed to use it for the purpose of treating.

    Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get all the varying platforms to work together and maintain data security? Same as asking a lung specialist to perform open heart surgery.

    The level of shortsightedness displayed is frightening.

    • Pascal

      Using these tablets does not necessarily mean that all the patient data is on the device. You can use quite some apps effectively without ever entering identifying information.

      Still, you are correct in pointing out this issue, I wouldn’t however paint it as dramatically as you did.

  • coder.slynk

    Look, another fluff piece on an Apple product. The iPad mini isn’t exactly revolutionary; Android has had access to the phablets and 7 inch tablets for quite awhile. If you want your article to hold a little more weight, try not to come off as a fan girl for apple drooling over a shrunken iPad.

    “So why the Mini?”
    1. It’s small!
    2. It’s small!
    3. It’s small!
    4. It’s small!
    5. People want one!
    6. It’s small!

    Riveting piece. *claps hands*

  • aptalca

    My wife (who is a doctor) has been using the 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab at work for years. . . since long before the iPad mini came out. It fits in the coat pocket much better than the iPad mini (because it is actually 7″ and anything larger with a case on would not fit).

    But please, please stop this iPad/Apple promotion madness. This article really should be about 7″-8″ tablets, not the iPad mini. I really want to read non-biased articles that are well informed.

  • Nhan Ho

    Is “you’ll make friends” a legitimate reason for someone who is presumably getting the device to enhance their heath care delivery? Let’s cut the fluff.

  • Fadhli Jaffar

    If you need to write and store quick memos, I’d recommend the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. But apple has better apps support and less malware.

    As for me, I own both of these, one for handling memos, calendar events, email and the other for presentation, 3d model viewing and engineering calculations.

  • Dr Umesh R Bilagi

    i think i will buy one

  • Me

    Well, the article clearly talks about access to medical records (para 4). And are you seriously suggesting that it will only be used as an almanach? And supposedly wireless tech could impact medical equipment or is there another reason for trying to ban mobiles? And viewing patient X-Rays on the go happens with no patient ID? Scary thought. Luckily there is a PAS integration app the fruit store supplies. Ahh, sorry, forgot – there is the friendly business partner that will take care of all that – for a price of course. Unfortunately yes, it is that bad. Just been lucky it isn’t as public as it should be. Boy do I enjoy watching my taxes be spent with consideration.

  • Anonymous

    Just wasted 5 mins of my time reading this article, I thought they made something evolutionary! they didn’t! 7” tablets were available way before the iPadMini, so what makes this one a “Must Have” one? cause its from Apple? We don’t blame you for being too late with techs beside it makes me nervous when you say “You’ll make friends”! Seriously, you don’t need a toy to make friends, if you do , Go see someone professional! regards.

  • Cheryl Handy

    If the physician is in the room with a patient, it is rude to start writing on the IPad. If you must, explain to the patient want you are doing and why.

    Being with a patient is like being on a platonic date. It would be rude to pull out smartphone or IPad and check your social media or emails. And that is precisely what your patient will think you are doing – unless you explain otherwise.

    ps. the mini IPad is just a big IPhone.

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