The iPad has the potential to become a real workhorse in hospital information systems. One of my first good-paying jobs included working with people developing bedside information system. The goal was to make data entry a normal part of a patient encounter, remove the ambiguity and lapses of a memory-based handwriting system, and even allow collaboration between physicians, nurses, and patients.
As John Halamka, MD, CIO of the Beth Israel Deconness Medical Center conveys, the iPad may be the vessel that makes this vision a reality. His emissary from iPad land? Dr. Henry Feldman, and hospitalist and informaticist who works with Halamka. Feldman is quoted as saying:
In general it was incredibly useful and given that all of our clinical apps are web based it basically all worked perfectly. Probably the most useful was rounding (or the nurse snagging you as you walked by) and during a trigger where I could stay at the bedside and do/see everything and not leave my critically ill patient. I have the apple case, which means that I can “wedge” the iPad so that it forms a useful keyboard. I typed fairly long notes, but certainly nothing like a DC summary, and it was perfect. On Friday evening had a late discharge, and up on 12R there wasn’t a computer free. I sat at the little round table and did it all sitting there, including all the DC instructions, scripts (except printing as below), etc… Battery life is epic, and I finally had to charge today at 3pm (Monday), after last charging Thursday night.
Feldman’s report is very insightful and useful to read. It’s clear that the iPad could change a lot about how information is purveyed and conveyed in medical settings, at least in a large, well-funded, and technology-savvy organization like the BIDMC. It could be the centerpiece of an entire patient-oriented IT strategy.
One thing Feldman tested was whether hand sanitizer and sanitizing sheets worked with the iPad. And for good reason. A recent report from the New York Daily News showed that iPads in New York stores were growing plenty of bugs, including Staphylococcus aureus. Having iPads widely adopted without finding a solution to this could be a disaster in the making, transforming these useful tablet computers into large, mobile, open petri dishes — nosocomial infection carriers of the first order.
As Stephen Colbert quipped a couple of months ago, “Only Apple could get us to buy something just to find out what it is.” As we learn exactly how the iPad works into our lives, it’s worth noting that for information-intensive jobs done by people on the move who also need to report back to central systems, the iPad may be a great solution.