Apple iPad for physicians

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, February 2018


See also ADDIE model | Google Android for physicians | iPhone5 for physicians | IPhone6 in medicine | QxMD | Wearable computers

In 2014, the iPad is seen as a useful educational tool for medical school students and residents, but its integration into clinical workflow has been less pronounced (Berkowitz, 2014). Since its release in 2011, the iPad was criticized as not being able to do what the iPhone can do. Moreover, the iPad was seen as a competitor to the e-readers, tablet PCs and netbooks on the market such as the Sony eReader and Amazon Kindle. Dr. Joshua Schwimmer, blogging at Healthline, compiled useful information around reviews of the iPad. Recent issues raised about using iPads are summarized below. (See for current reviews of applications for the iPad.)

iPads & health librarians

In 2012, Pappas, a clinical librarian, talked about the role that an iPad has had on helping physicians find information on the rounds and in clinics. This is something that physicians might want to keep in mind to integrate health librarians into their rounding activities. In 2016, a science librarian published a list of apps that are most used in health care, see Abdulla A. There's an app for that: healthcare apps: what professionals in healthcare are using. Iss Sci Tech Librarianship. 2016 Spring.

App evaluation & web pathfinders


  • In reviews, the iPad is positioned between a smartphone and a laptop, but more portable and lighter than a laptop
  • Question for physicians: is this a supplement to iPhone or a replacement? Do you need both??
    • Handsome 9.7-inch interface enhances viewing of patient records and medical images, which are problematic on the iPhone
    • physicians will like iPad’s finger touchscreen design for data entry, or if not they can always use an external keyboard (optional)
    • for day-to-day use, the iPad doesn’t do anything better than an iPhone (or laptop/desktop)
  • But what is the iPad's potential to enhance patient care?
  • wider screen and better resolution is welcome; but if the iPad doesn’t fit into lab coats, forget about doctors using it
    • iPad has writing capabilities, but must be good enough to replace the way doctors enter records and take clinical notes on the wards and in clinical settings
  • Apple is already pitching iPad in US hospitals as replacement for old physician clipboard; but cumbersome to carry
  • inexplicably, iPad does not have mouse support; making navigation and usability a challenge for some functions
    • can't take pictures or do telemedicine conferencing; a major drawback for on the go clinical practice
    • no multitasking so cannot run several applications at a time like iPhone
    • not resistant to dust and liquids
  • selection of medical software or applications is limited; see Top 5 Medical Apps for the Upcoming iPad
    • no barcode scanning or voice-to-text dictation
    • not meant to replace laptops; in addition, there is no USB port, and does not support Flash for web browsing
    • battery replacement (10 hours battery life) not allowed, have to recharge - other power issues?
  • most hospitals run Windows, and do not support Macs (introducing incompatibility)

One review said astutely "If the iPad is going to do more than be an EMR portal for writing patients notes and reading their records, then it has to be strong enough to withstand disinfection procedures. Second, property safety. Desktops are hard to steal, laptops are easier, and an iPad would be a breeze. If patient information is stored or accessible on the iPad, the hospital’s lawyers will demand a pretty high level of security."

iPad and EMRs

Dr. Chrono's iPad EMR app

One of the most exciting hopes for the iPad is that it will be a robust tablet for the creation, editing and review of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). There are already some ways of accessing EMRs on the iPad, and at least one fully-fledged native iPad EMR app.

  • Dr. Chrono's EMR app is the first EMR app to run natively on the iPad. Though the app is still in its early stages, it is already easy to see the potential for these types of applications in the healthcare setting.
  • Macpractice's EMR requires a VNC connection from the iPad to gain access to EMR records that are maintained on other machines. They are in the process of designing a native iPad app.

Other medical record apps are surely yet to come. It remains to be seen, however, if these apps will be able to stand up to patient privacy concerns. Without the ability to run several apps at once, as well, it may be difficult to use consistently in a practice setting.

Software issues

Like the iPhone, which the iPad shares a similar environment (iPhone SDK, or software development kit, version 3.2 onwards), Apple tools run their own software downloadable from its App Store. Software is written by developers who pay for a developer's license on registered devices. The iPad runs almost all third-party iPhone applications, displaying them at iPhone size or enlarging them to fill the iPad's screen.

Health apps

  • Mobile applications for tablets and smartphones have the capacity to make any nurse or nursing student’s life easier. NCLEX study apps for those seeking their license are comprehensive and offer specialized modules for different parts of the test. Flashcard apps, human anatomy references, prescription drug encyclopedias, and medical dictionaries make it easy to look up facts. General productivity apps like Evernote and Dropbox make life easier by streamlining scheduling and other tasks, and offer synced calendars and event reminder functions.

Carter’s Encyclopedia of Health and Medicine developed for the iPad by mogeneration gives the look and feel of a print encyclopedia with ease of an iPad app; features 12,000 entries provided by Medwords that in print would equal 1,800 pages of content. With all of this content, the app weighs in at around 50MB.


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