The UNE School of Rural Medicine's program to equip first-year medical students with iPads.

The UNE School of Rural Medicine's program to equip first-year medical students with iPads.

St. Mary’s Health Care System purchased iPads and loaned them to third-year medical clerkship students from the Georgia Health Sciences University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership (GHSU/UGA) campus and are collaborating with the University of Georgia’s College of Education on a yearlong study to see how iPads can be used in medical settings on a daily basis.

The study, which began in July of 2012, is set to conclude in June of 2013. Thus far, the study included eight faculty physician preceptors at St. Mary’s and 36 third-year medical students from GHSU/UGA.

“You can talk to your patient and educate them,” said Michelle Nuss, the campus associate dean for graduate medical education at GHSU/UGA. “The more the patient understands their disease, the more they’re going to be invested in getting better because they understand why it’s happening to them.”

Patient engagement in healthcare has been a big concern as the costs continue to skyrocket. The belief that patients taking an active role in their healthcare was a major contributing factor to the overhaul of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement policy in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and will be put to the test as hospitals are measured on quality of care and outcomes, and paid accordingly.

“Showing patients their chest X-rays in real time and their lab results on the iPad, and I think engaging the patient more in their health care and making them more educated about their own problems, has been a big component of the study,” Nuss said.

Patients with better health literacy have been shown to make better decisions, and cost less than patients with low health literacy, so understanding the impact of educating the patient will be an equally important result of this study.

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The study is unique, in that it tests not only the impact of mobile technology on delivery of healthcare, but also the impact it has on educating medical students in the classroom.

In Education

In recent years, many medical schools have started implementing mobile education into their curriculum, including Cornell University, Yale University, the University of Central Florida and Georgetown School of Medicine.

Students at Cornell Medical School began using iPads instead of textbooks in 2011, and so far the reviews have been highly positive. “Students will use interactive apps on their iPad tablets to see animated 3-D molecular models of different proteins and compounds. The device’s advanced graphics allow students to view molecular structures with depth, rather than as a flat illustration on a sheet of paper, helping them to better understand how the structures function in the body.

UC Irvine reported (after implementing a similar program in 2010), that the first class to receive the iPads scored “an average of 23 percent higher on national exams than previous classes, even though their incoming GPA and MCAT scores were comparable.”

Though iPad adoption is not quite ubiquitous in healthcare, it is rapidly becoming so. Last year, an estimated 62% of physicians owned tablets, and many of them were used in practice (Manhattan Research, 2012). The results of both classroom and practice-based studies are likely to show not just the greater utility that mobile technology provides, but the improved efficiency and patient outcomes & satisfaction as a result of better technology.


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