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Are Tablets Useful On The Wards?

Walk through the hospital and I guarantee you’ll see a medical student, resident, attending, or other healthcare provider utilizing some sort of tablet device. In some venues, iPads and Android tablets have become as commonplace as the traditional clipboard. The question – do these devices actually service a purpose at the medical student level? Or are they “just another thing to carry” in our tiny white coats? 馃槅

Personally, I’ve carried either a Samsung Galaxy 8.9″ tablet or a Nexus 7 with me on the wards over the last few months. Instead of having to fumble through a hodgepodge of papers, it’s so much easier to have all the reference materials, diagrams, and literature in one simple device which can serve so many other purposes (Riptide GP has saved me from boredom a number of times). Its also given me a chance to help answer questions posed by patients regarding the nature of their surgery, the side effects of their new medication regimen, etc. While smartphones can serve a similar function, tablets are more “EMR friendly” and have a form factor that’s conducive towards checking lab results or writing short notes.

With all the positives, I think the only negative comes down to personal preference – some people just don’t like reading on an electronic device. They’re more comfortable reading a physical text which they can actively annotate. I’m caught somewhere in the middle – for major clinical textbooks (ie, Barash’s Clinical Anesthesiology), I prefer a hard copy. For references and journal articles, an electronic medium is better for searching and storing large volumes of data. In any sense, with tablets getting cheaper by the quarter, I think it’s a cost that most students can stomach.

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 2 comments

  1. Text book will have same fate as newspapers and evening news. Majority now get news via internet and same will be all textbooks. Books look good in office or desk. A thoughtful posting.
    Enjoy reading your all posting

    • I agree. Tablets are already becoming an integral part of the curriculum at the grade-school level, and many medical schools and residencies are offering tablets to matriculants with access to relevant textbooks.

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