The current (first generation) Apple iPad probably won’t run a robust electronic health record (EHR).
However, it may run some iPhone/iPod touch EHR/EMR apps. I think most physicians will prefer to use a standard tablet PC instead of the iPad. However, given that a large percentage of physicians are not using the tablet in the outpatient office setting, perhaps they could leverage the iPad in the following ways:
1. Use the iPad to teach patients. Leverage multimedia resources such as patient videos, animations, diagrams, charts, etc. to teach patients about specific diseases and conditions.
2. Allow patients to use the iPad to learn about health/wellness as they’re waiting for the doctor. Could you imagine what it would be like to walk into a doctor’s office and to find an iPad on the chair? The screen could say: “pick me up and learn how to improve your health.” Then, it could go through an interactive educational module with the patient while he/she waits for the physician to enter the room. Patients could also read the latest medical/health news on the iPad.
3. Use the iPad to take notes. Who needs a clipboard? Even if you’re not using an electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR) in your office, you can still use the iPad to take some notes.
4. Allow patients to retrieve their personal health record or PHR information from the Internet. You probably don’t want to hand them your tablet PC that contains your EHR/EMR data, but maybe you’ll be OK handing them an iPad that’s connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi.
5. Let patients check their e-mail and browse the web while they’re waiting. They’re probably already doing that with their smartphones. Provide them a device that’s bigger and easier to use.
6. Mount the iPad on the wall and use it for some of the things described above. This way, it won’t fall or walk away. Plus, you could use it as a digital photo frame.
7. Play some soothing music in the exam room. Have anxious patients? Play some relaxing tunes. Treating depressed patients? Play some music that will cheer them up.
8. Allow patients to use the iPad calendar to schedule their next appointment.
9. Games. Do you treat children? Let them play some games on the iPad. They will love visits to the doctor’s office! They’ll be asking their parents, “Can we please go to the doctor’s office today? Please?”
10. As a physical exam tool. You could use the iPad to conduct mini mental exams and other diagnostic evaluations. Need them to remember 3 objects? Provide them with visual aids. Performing a psychometric evaluation? Skip the paper and go straight to the iPad.
There are obviously many other ways you could use an iPad in the office. Once Apple drops the prices on these devices, we can expect to see many physician offices leveraging the iPad in creative and educational ways to improve patient health and to also enhance the clinical workflow.
Joseph Kim is a physician-executive who blogs at Mobile Health Computing.
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