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iPad functionality just what doctor ordered

Updated: December 17, 2010 2:03PM



Emergency room doctors are using iPads to order lab tests and medication. Plastic surgeons are using them to show patients what they might look like after surgery. And medical residents are using them as a quick reference to look up drug interactions and medical conditions.

Since Apple’s iPad hit the market in April, doctors at Chicago area hospitals are increasingly using the hot-selling tablet as a clinical tool.

Not only does the iPad allow doctors to view electronic medical records, wherever they are, it also gives them a way to show patients their X-rays, EKGs and other lab tests on an easy-to-read screen. Plus, it’s lighter and has a longer battery life than many laptops, making it convenient for doctors to take on rounds.

Within the next month, the University of Chicago Medical Center plans to provide iPads to all of its internal medicine residents, expanding on a pilot program launched earlier this year. Similarly, Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood has given iPads to all of its orthopedic residents as part of a pilot program.

Other doctors are buying their own iPads and using them to interact with patients. At U. of C., for instance, plastic surgeon Dr. Julie Park uses her iPad to show breast-cancer patients what they might look like after reconstructive surgery.

“The touch screen is intuitive and gives a hands-on experience for patients as they navigate through the pictures,” Park said.

Pulmonary specialists at the hospital also use iPads to explain lung disease to their patients.

Another hospital that has embraced the iPad is MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island. Once doctors there learned that they could access the hospital’s electronic medical records with the iPad, “it went through here like wildfire,” said Dr. Richard Watson, an emergency room physician at MetroSouth. “At least half of our staff here in the emergency room has their own iPad and carries it and uses it.”

Last week, Watson used his iPad to show 14-year-old Gustavo Pintor an X-ray of his sprained right ankle. “It was cool to see,” said the teen, who’d gotten hurt at soccer practice. “I feel like I understand what happened now.”

Though the iPad provides a portal to the hospital’s electronic record, patient information isn’t actually stored on the device. And both the iPad and the hospital server are password-protected, lowering the chances that sensitive data could be swiped from a lost or stolen iPad.

Dr. Eric Nussbaum, MetroSouth’s emergency room chief, said the iPad also solves one of the problems created by switching from a paper-based record system to an electronic one: having to go to a desktop computer to order lab tests or type in notes on a patient.

“With this, I’m back to the convenience of being in the patient’s room, talking to them and plugging in my orders right then and there,” he said.



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