iPad Use in the Hospital and IT Departments

Librarians may know him best from the 2010 Leiter Lecture, but John Halamka is also the Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network, Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, and oh yeah a practicing Emergency Physician.  In his spare time (God knows where he finds it) he blogs on Life as a Healthcare CIO

I like reading his posts, many of which are about the nitty gritty areas of health information technology, some of which are over my head.  Every Friday he writes a Cool Technology of the Week post. Last Friday his post was about the iPad and an “in the trenches experience by one of hospitalists and informaticians, Dr. Henry Feldman.”  It is an interesting day in the life of a medical professional and how the iPad was an extremely valuable and versatile tool for the hospital floor.  It wasn’t perfect, there was some bumps but overall it was very helpful to have. 

I read this post on Friday and wouldn’t you know it on Tuesday I was faced with my first iPad toting physician.  This doctor is the type of doctor that every hospital and patient would want.  He described how he takes his iPad on the floors with him while he is teaching EBM and doing patient rounds.  He demonstrated the various tools he used in his everyday practice and spoke about how he searches for the best evidence for patient care.  He mentioned how a patient had questions about their surgery and how he found the procedure on Medscape and played the video for the patient.  So why was this doctor here at the library talking to me about his iPad?  I would love to say it was because he wanted to show off his iPad.  But no, that wasn’t the case. 

Unfortunately, as the case in many hospital libraries, our IT department will not let his iPad onto the Intranet.  They issued him a hospital IT approved laptop, but that is too heavy and cumbersome to use compared the iPad.  Believe it or not but the battery on his laptop is worse than an iPhone, so he has to worry about keeping the power cord handy.  So he doesn’t use the laptop.  He prefers to use the lighter and more versatile iPad.  BUT in order to use it he must use the hospital free Internet wifi access.  This is great for free resources like Medscape, but for library resources he must constantly login as if he is off campus (because on campus access is via the Intranet).  So he was here at the library trying to find out how he could make his off campus login procedures (even though he is on campus) a little easier.  He also recently bought the PubMed on Tab app and he needed to know our ez proxy information so that he could access the full text articles.  Unfortunately we don’t use ez proxy, we use Innovative Interface’s Web Access Module (WAM) to provide off campus access to users, so he couldn’t take advantage of our full text journals through PubMed on Tap.  If he wanted full text articles or access to any of our online resources he would have to login as if he was off campus even though he is clearly on campus. 

It is an ugly work around that is not ideal at all.  It all could be eliminated if IT would allow the iPad access to the Intranet.  But no, IT told him the iPad is consumer device not a medical device.  So while I love reading John’s post on cool technology and cloud computing and the usage of so many interesting devices, I have to admit I get a little bit envious too.  It is not like some joe shmoe off the street (or me, the lowly librarian) is talking about the practicality of these devices, John has some seriously wicked smart credentials behind him.   I just wish the right IT people in other hospitals would read his blog and learn a thing or two about moving forward with technology of healthcare.

7 thoughts on “iPad Use in the Hospital and IT Departments”

  1. I fortunately can log in to the server to access the resources. Our IT does allow access. I am using an ACER which has a 6 hour battery life. Small screen but worth it after 3 hours on the floor. Would love an iPad but our EHR uses java and flash which don’t work on the iPhone I carry so they won’t work on the iPad. It is frustrating but I can do a lot of things with the ACER.

  2. Once other vendors come out with an “iPad type” device that will use Flash, Apple will get smart. IT departments, on the other hand, are not quite so intelligent. If a desktop or a laptop are medical devices, an iPad should be considered a “medical device” (whatever that means). Also, once AT&T is no longer the sole source for connecting to the Internet on your own, then more friendly medical community use may be possible. The iPad platform is really neat and useful, but only when Apple gets a clue. IT folks should also get into the 21st century too. I’ve heard of some rather draconian rules out here in hospitals too. However, it seems to be par for the course.

  3. Saw my first iPad “in person” the other day. It really is an incredible little machine. I’ve heard, like you mentioned, if properly used, you can make it “sing” just like your doc there. It is too bad about your I/T network – it seems to go with the territory.
    Your blog is fantastic Michelle!

  4. Thanks so much for posting this. I just emailed our CIO to get the scoop on iPad use at my hospital. I fear we may have the same situation you have described.

  5. Thanks so much for givving posting this.I am a master students in medical librarianship and infomration science. I am realy interested in this subject:Ipad use in hospitals
    I need some articles about it.tnx

  6. Hi, interesting article, am currently working in the it dept in a major hospital in new Zealand one thing the general public often overlook is the cost in providing it to any large Organisation. We currently struggle to get the funding needed to provide support for yet another layer of complexity. iPads are a great tool but require it to support another operating system, another layer of security, another layer of data management, another layer of printing management. has anyone tested the iPad2 with gloves or wiped it down with alcohol? Our tests show it failed a number of these basic requirements to meet a medical device criteria. Also it doesn’t integrate with any centralized tools, we can’t deploy apps to it now remote control when things go wrong.

    In our hospital we have trialed the panasonic medical toughbook. Great unit btw and fulfills all the requirements the hospital needs. But because it’s costly they don’t want it, it has dual batteries, RFID / barcode reader, camera, is medically certified, finger swipe (failed gloves test tho), works with all our clinical apps, we can control it with all the enterprises asset tools, but alas not flash looking so the 4 we bought sit idle in our it hall of shame. Oh well we will just have to keep on trying.

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