I recently asked a group of healthcare workers "What's the one technology you can't live without?" It probably won't come as a big surprise that many of the answers began with the lowercase letter "i." In fact, some of the folks I queried sent their answers via devices beginning with that very same letter.
D. Elan Simckes, MD, medical director of Fertility Partnership in St. Louis, MO, nicknamed the iPad he got for his birthday his "MyPad."
"I thought it would be mostly used for fun, but really it's turned into an invaluable work tool," he says. "I now have all my online medical journals and my medical search engines at my fingertips at any time of the day. My iPad seamlessly interfaces with my electronic medical records system which I think increases accuracy in everything I do."
Even more important, the device has helped him overcome a condition common to physicians—poor handwriting. "There are those who say I became a doctor because my handwriting is completely illegible," he says. "My mother says it is nothing but pure chicken scratch."
Using the iPad and a dictation software application, he says he dictates everything from case notes to patient letters. "I even dictate messages to my staff and e-mail them right then. What's great is that the application is more than 95% accurate even with much of my medical terminology."
The practice's marketing department also use iPads. "They can build presentations and Powerpoints and I can instantly showcase them out in the field," Simckes says. "Last week I took my iPad to a live TV interview and had my notes right at hand. I was able to prep literally until the moment the cameras went live. The TV crew loved it and it made me incredibly comfortable and relaxed."
The iPhone has brought a little fun to the Indianapolis offices of Downtown Physical Therapy, says Bryce Taylor, president of the practice.
"Nobody could have convinced me three years ago that my patients would be playing video games for treatment," he says. "Here we are though—in a new tech era, when video games are no longer bad for you. The iPhone has helped his patients complete home exercise programs—one application has a printer-friendly handout function he uses to show patients the exercises.
"Technology certainly is making my clinic run more smoothly and creates a fun environment at times," he says.
"The smartphone is the new doctor's black bag," says John Luo, MD, associate director of psychiatric residency training at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA Medical Center. "I never leave home or office without it."
Luo uses his phone to check medication dosages and drug interactions, sends refills online, and I looks up "all sorts of medical information using the web browser." He lists about half a dozen applications that provide him with health information, continuing medical education, and medical calculations—all at the point of care. "The smartphone is more valuable than a computer to me because it is always available to help; just as Sherlock Holmes had Dr. John Watson," he says.
And it has one more advantage over the Holmes-Watson relationship. It actually makes phone calls, too.