Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, April 11, 2012
Since the first-generation iPad hit the market in 2010, physicians have embraced the gadget and its apps, many of which enhance or expedite clinical care. But until recently, the patient experience has not been directly influenced by Apple’s hit device, other than by way of the patient being impressed with their physician’s technological prowess.
Lately, app developers and hospitals have been rethinking the iPad’s potential in the patient experience and have been using the tablet in creative ways.
iPads as Patient Guides
Mayo Clinic has begun using content- and app-loaded iPads to help guide patients through their hospital experience. Earlier this month the health system posted a video depicting iPad use on its YouTube page.
Each heart surgery patient is given an iPad to help them visualize and prepare for their plan of care.
“The iPad is a nice way to navigate through some of those resources and keep track on a daily basis that you’re doing the things you need to do to make sure you’re doing the things that you should be,” heart patient Randy Sterner said in the video.
From what we can see in the video, the tailored app includes the patient’s daily schedule, information about the hospital stay, patient education information, and notes about planning for recovery.
It also allows patients to report on levels of pain they are experiencing or exercises they have completed. The reports are instantly transmitted to the patient’s care team.
Verdict: Though most hospitals are not currently able to afford this extent of patient iPad use, it gives us a hopeful glimpse at the future of using technology to inform and educate patients. Of course, even in the future this technology is only supplemental to hands-on caregiver interaction.
iPads to Customize the MRI
A new app called the Caring MR Suite allows patients to customize MRI settings, to creating a more positive experience.
The app lets patients select lighting, music, images, and video to be available during their scan. Patients can even dock their own iPhones or iPods to listen to their own music or watch their own videos, which are displayed on a screen in the ceiling.
Special LED light fixtures and high-resolution displays are embedded in the walls and ceilings of the suite and controlled by the iPad. There is a video depicting the suite on the YouTube page for GE Healthcare, which manufactures the model.
Verdict: While I imagine this is a substantial investment, it’s one of the best ways I’ve seen of making what is often a intimidating and scary experience more bearable. Allowing the patient to tailor the MRI experience, it gives them some sense of control back.
iPads Replacing Check-in Forms
An HR platform called Drchrono markets an iPad app called OnPatient, which allows hospitals to check patients in via iPad instead of paper forms and clipboards.
Healthcare providers can create a customized check-in form. Then when patients fill out the for the first time, they input their personal, demographic, and insurance information, take a profile photo, review their medications and allergies, and their records are saved for future use.
The app integrates with Drchrono’s full suite of iPad EHR services aimed at helping caregivers modernize their record keeping processs.
“The OnPatient check-in app digitizes the waiting room and eliminates significant barriers to mass adoption of patient check-in technology by leveraging sophisticated iPad technology,” Michael Nusimow, co-founder and CEO of Drchrono, told Mashable. “We designed the OnPatient app to be intuitive for both physicians and patient users to create a better patient check-in experience.”
Verdict: This process is not ideal for all patients, especially the elderly and the technologically unfamiliar, but would be a hit with Gen-X and Gen-Y. It may be an asset for hospitals reaching out to younger demographics.
iPads for Virtual Physician-Patient Communication
By simply using the iPad’s Facetime feature, physicians and patients can video chat about the patient’s recovery progress.
Henry Ford Hospital has been using this feature, which also comes on the newer iPhone and the latest generation iPod touch, to conduct a new initiative called “telerounding.”
“Using the iPad to communicate really appeals to the type of patients that are seeking state-of-the-art, minimally invasive robotic surgery at Henry Ford,” Dr. Craig Rogers, MD, director of Renal Surgery and director of Urologic Oncology at Henry Ford, told Detroit’s HomeTownLife.com. “Patients are looking for us to use current technology in a way that improves their care, and ‘telerounding’ with the iPad really fits that need in enhancing the communication and care following surgery.”
Replacing some phone calls with video chats, patients can have a more personal and informative conversation with their physician. Henry Ford physicians have said they benefit by being able to physically see their patients to get a sense of their post-op condition.
Verdict: This is the most cost-effective, efficient, and flexible use of the iPad to improve the patient experience. Not only does this practice help physicians on the clinical side, it gives patients the positive feeling of personalized care even when they are miles away from the hospital.