Victorian doctors to trial iPads in hospitals

Macworld Australia Staff
2 August, 2010
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Graduate doctors in Victoria are to use iPads in hospital treatment under a $500,000 pilot program launched by the state government. The move, which is likely to improve efficiency and patient care, has been welcomed by the Australian Medical Association.

“The iPads will allow doctors and nurses to access any web-enabled application run by their hospital as they move around the hospital, as well as allowing them to tap into health information resources,” health minister Daniel Andrews says.

The benefits of the pilot will be assessed before the program is extended beyond the grad doctors. Andrews says this group is perfect for the trial as they’ve grown up with technology all around them.

Responding to the announcement, AMA Victoria president Dr Harry Hemley says, “iPads in hospitals will begin to solve computer access problems and allow doctors transportable access to clinical journals, online information and email. It will give doctors the tools they need to fulfil their clinical responsibilities and provide quality care to patients.”

The move from the Victorian government comes as the World Congress’ Summit on mHealth (mobile health) in the US discusses the increasing role of smartphones and tablet PCs in healthcare, as doctors and patients embrace the mobile internet.

A study from Manhattan Research has found that 71 percent of physicians consider a smartphone essential to their practice and 84 percent said that the internet is critical to their jobs. An iPad or other tablet PC makes the internet always accessible.

“Physicians are opportunistic in finding ways to improve efficiency,” says Manhattan Research senior director Monique Levy, adding that smartphones and tablets allow doctors to check email, use mobile applications and surf the web, and also lead to collaboration between physicians and patients.

Doctors can use a device like a tablet to pull up patient information during a consultation, then use it to show a patient how disease spreads or how curvature of the spine occurs. It may be easier to share information with patients in this way than sitting in front of a PC.

According to Parks Associates director of mobile and health research Harry Wang, future developments could allow patients to use their iPhones as glucose monitors. In fact, some US hospitals are experimenting with such applications already.

People with sleeping disorders could use a wireless device to monitor their sleep patterns and transmit data to their doctors over a wireless network. This would lead to health care savings since labs often charge more than $1000 for testing, and some home monitoring options cost $300, Wang says. However, using mobile technologies for critical care is still a developing market, he adds.

Some obstacles need to be addressed before wireless health care moves forward, Wang says. He cites a lack of standards, the need for more safety regulations and the need for more marketing to both doctors and patients. The greatest challenge will be aligning the interests of stakeholders like health care providers, patients and hospitals, he says.

With the announcement of the iPad trial, Victorian hospitals are now at the forefront of innovation and health technology.

“I expect that the trial will be a success, and that all public hospital doctors will have access to wireless technology in the near future,” the AMA’s Hemley says. “This is a win for Victorian patients.”

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