Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Medical residents disappointed with iPads

More healthcare providers are using iPads and other tablets to help treat patients. But it’s important for doctors and hospitals to have realistic expectations about those devices. 

doctor tabletNearly two-thirds of doctors (72%) are using tablets in their work, according to a recent study from Manhattan Research — up from 62% who said the same thing last year and more than double the 30% of doctors who were using tablets in 2011.

Often, doctors use those devices to view and edit electronic health records (EHRs). Tablets are also popular for reading electronic textbooks and conducting other research.

While tablets offer those benefits, they may not live up to all doctors’ expectations, warned a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers looked at the University of Chicago Medical Center, which started giving iPads to all incoming residents. What they found: In the end, only a minority of the medical students said the devices were beneficial for patient care.

However, the researchers said the problems may not have been due to the tablets themselves, but rather the residents’ inflated expectations of the devices.

A month before the iPads were handed out, the residents were surveyed. And among the 115 respondents:

  • 34% strongly agreed the devices would help improve patient care, and
  • 41% believed they would improve efficiency.

However, four months after the iPads were deployed the residents were polled again. This time:

  • Only 15% said tablets had helped improve patient care, and
  • Just 24% said efficiency had gone up.

New tech takes time

It’s important to note that the report is based on data from 2010, when the iPad was new and none of the residents had used them before in a clinical setting. But the comparison between residents’ expectations and the actual outcomes could raise some concerns for hospitals looking to adopt mobile devices.

Some of insights gleaned from the comments of the researchers and residents:

  1. It takes time for new technologies to pay off. Especially with new mobile technologies, electronic records and other systems, clinicians and other hospital staff need a chance to get used to new ways of doing their work. Still, despite not seeing an immediate payoff, 84% of the study participants thought the iPads were a good investment for the residency program.
  2. Forcing people to adopt new technologies doesn’t always work. In some cases — like when a hospital switches to EHRs — everyone needs to be on board. But many study participants said the program worked because they were able to choose which tasks they could use the iPad for and which were best done in other ways.
  3. Doctors’ input is critical. Some clinicians are more tech-savvy than others, so there may be people in the organization who have already figured out the best ways to use these new tools in a clinical setting. Those people can offer valuable insight to hospital leadership, as well as help train their peers.

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