Thinking Tech

Why iPads are taking off in hospitals

Posting in Education

Doctors and nurses are blending their professional and personal lives.

Stanford medical school is giving iPads to all its new incoming students this fall in order to cut down on paper costs.

The iPads have other advantages too. Here's what Dr. Charles Prober, Stanford's senior associate dean for medical education, told the San Francisco Chronicle:

I think the iPad will also be useful for these future doctors to explain to patients what medical conditions or surgeries look like. They can pull out the iPad in the exam room and enhance their explanations with diagrams or pictures. And they'll always be able to have their medical school notes with them, even after they graduate. It's impossible to do that with a textbook.

I talked last week to Dr. Cameron Powell, an obstetrician (no longer practicing) who co-founded Airstrip, which makes an iPhone/iPad App that lets doctors and nurses monitor a mother's contractions and her baby's heart rate during labor -- at any time, from anywhere, as long as there's a wireless connection.

Airstrip just raised its first venture funding (from Sequoia Capital, amount undisclosed), and was featured onstage last year at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference by Steve Jobs -- even though Airstrip's software runs natively on all mobile devices. But in the U.S., at least, over 80 percent of its business is on the iPhone, and the iPad is gaining fast.

Powell told me that in the last four months or so, hospital chief information officers who were surprised by how fast doctors and nurses adopted the iPhone have decided they won't be caught short again.

"Progressive CIOs banked on the iPad and figured they'd better get behind it, because they don’t want to hear from doctors that we’re behind the eight ball because we're not allowing the iPad," he said. "I've personally witnessed a massive paradigm shift in mobility, and it's caused purely by the iPhone."

Powell also says he isn't sure why doctors and nurses want iPhones and iPads so much, but he figures it's easier for them to use one device. You can hang a picture and level it using an iPhone/iPad App, he points out, and now you can monitor your patients too.

But the most exciting thing about the iPad, according to both Powell and Matt Murphy, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins who runs a $200 million iFund for the iPhone and the iPad, is that nobody knows yet exactly how iPads will be used. They're too new.

"I think there's a whole set of Apps that don't exist yet, and we won't know them until we see them -- in healthcare and education for sure," Murphy told me recently. "It'll be different than what we see on a small (iPhone) screen."

So far, Murphy has received over 5,000 business plans for startups based on the iPhone and the iPad, and they're still coming.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure