March 14, 2012

iPads: Increasing Doctor Efficiency, Decreasing Patient Wait Time

A “research letter” in the March 12, 2012 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine hails doctors´ use of personal mobile computers. By providing doctors with such devices, such as Apple´s popular tablet, iPad, delays in patient care have been reduced and overall efficiency has been increased in medical facilities.

The University of Chicago Medicine became the first hospital in the country to equip each of their residents. These residents used the tablets to complete paperwork, update patient charts, and look up drug prices. A year later the residents were asked to report on how the iPads changed the way they performed their daily tasks. A vast majority of these residents were pleased with the way the iPads helped them give care to their patients. These residents reported having more time to spend directly with their patients as well as engage in educational and community activities.

“Residents face a vast and increasing workload packed into tightly regulated hours,” said the study´s first author, Bhakti Patel, MD, pulmonary critical care fellow at the University of Chicago Medicine. “They spend much of their time completing documentation and updating patient charts. This study indicates that personal mobile computers can streamline that process.”

The study worked in two ways. The first half of the study comprised of a survey of every resident who carried an iPad and used it as a part of their daily work. The results were astonishing. Almost 90% of the residents said they used their iPads as a part of their daily work. 78% of the residents claimed that using the devices made them more efficient in their work, and 68% believed that using the devices decreased patient wait time and other delays.

The second part of the study measured the actual data from the hospital´s admission offices. The researchers looked at how long it took patients to receive care once they registered with the hospital´s admission staff. Dr. Patel compared this data from January-March 2011 to data from the same time in 2010, before the iPads were given to the residents.

The data from the hospital´s admission office confirmed the results from the resident surveys. The residents were able to submit 5% more orders before their 7 a.m rounds. Before leaving the hospital at 1 p.m, the same residents were able to place 8% more orders than before they had been given iPads.

Leadership in the hospital´s internal medicine residency program had the idea to integrate the iPads into the residency program and, with help from the residency program and administrative staff, the iPad program was implemented.

According to a press release, the hospital spends nearly $650 on each iPad. This price includes the cost of insurance, screen protectors, cases and straps, and hospital-specific software. Each of the iPads are password protected to protect private patient information. The iPads are loaded with applications that allow the residents to access medical journals and clinical calculators, as well as links to a hospital paging directory and a scheduling tool.

“We were encouraged to see that this technology could enhance patient care in the setting of restricted resident duty hours,” said Christopher Chapman, MD, current chief resident of the internal medicine residency program at the University of Chicago Medicine.


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