Unless you've been living under a rock the last two weeks, you know that Apple unveiled its newest gadget, the iPad, a tablet-sized companion piece to the iPhone. Five minutes after the unveiling, everyone in healthcare began debating its crossover capability. Everyone from physician groups to the American Hospital Association has seemed to praise the device, saying it will make "significant improvements" in the delivery of care. Really? The interesting thing about all the press is that virtually no one is asking nurses what they think. Their voices have been relegated to the replies posted below each online story.
In a nutshell, the iPad is the size of a large paper tablet, weighs just 1.5lbs and has a 9.7 inch touch display screen. With a $1,000 price tag that's sure to drop over time, it’s less than half the price of similar technology some hospitals already use. It's completely compatible with the iPhone, which many nurses already carry. Because it's so similar to the iPhone, little to no training will be necessary on the device, saving even more costs.
On the downside: It has no Flash support, is not dockable, carries just 64 GB of storage, has no camera, no barcode scanner and uses non-interchangeable batteries. After 10 hours, it must be left to recharge. With up to 1,000 different applications it can only have one open at a time. Nurses have also pointed out that unless it is small enough to fit into their pockets, it’s just too cumbersome.
Technical upgrades can and will be made to the iPad. Beyond the technical "ooh-aah", the question seems to be: How does this actually improve patient care? Does putting another artificial gadget between the nurse and patient really improve care delivery? Just because we can create these technical toys; does it mean we should?
All of my sisters are school teachers. In the last 10 years, the government has been bulldozing thousands of perfectly good schools to build brand new, shiny replacements with all the computerized technical "ooh-aah" inside you could imagine. My question has always been: That's great, but are the students any smarter? The iPad is a nice toy, but will the patients get any better?