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4 benefits of using iPads in medical schools

IPads are used in roughly one quarter of U.S. medical schools, free of charge or as a mandatory tool for learning. University of California at Irvine School of Medicine began using them in 2010. As these classes progress, it and other medical schools have found that the use of iPads is having some unintended consequences, particularly when it comes to how faculty use them in their courses and how their students have adapted.

More effective use of time

Dr. Warren Wiechmann faculty director for instructional technologies at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, said in his regular conversations with other medical schools that require iPads or the equivalent one of the biggest challenges each medical school has faced was how to make it workable for faculty. After all, universities can’t just force faculty to adopt iPads like, say, students.

“They have seen fads come and go, and their initial reaction was, ‘why should we put all our eggs in one basket?’” Weichmann said in a phone interview. But since 2010 it’s made a huge difference on time management. At many medical schools at least some of the lectures are broken down into shorter, focused podcasts. Professors keep electronic office hours. They use the rest of the class time to teach in small group sessions. Clinical faculty have interactive rounds to reinforce core concepts Weichmann said. Stanford medical school took it a step further and has done away with lectures altogether in favor of podcasts. For newer medical schools like the University of Central Florida, they have built iPads into the curriculum almost from the start so the transition hasn’t been as complex.

Getting students used to using iPads in hospital environment earlier

Irvine’s third year students were the first class “the guinea pig class” to receive the iPads. With a class of roughly 100 students, they are probably the largest group of tablet users for a hospital. They have been learning how to use EMR and from the patient bedside have been using the iPads to improve patient education. They can do mini teaching sessions with the patient using diagrams and videos on the iPads to illustrate a procedure they will have.

Lower costs than standard textbooks

Students typically spend less than $50 on textbooks now, although many still want to have an anatomy textbook. But they have been good at finding appropriate digital content to complement the classes. One of the stated goals for medical schools introducing iPads is reducing paper costs. Even if students are required to pay for it themselves, an iPad works out to be cheaper than a year’s worth of textbooks, which can cost upwards of $800-$900.

A shift back to the Socratic method of teaching.

For years, medical education has tried to get away from didactic learning in favor of the Socratic method,Weichmann said, in which there are smaller groups of students having a more engaging question and answer session and debate with a professor. Although these developments didn’t necessarily have to happen because of iPads, the technology shift on med school campuses have advanced to the point where using the Socratic method has become doable.