By now you have heard all of the buzz surrounding the Apple iPad, which is already one of the most revolutionary tech products to hit the healthcare industry.  Over 20% of US physicians planned to buy the iPad before it was released. Pundits are now calling 2011, “The Year of the Tablet.”

Many WebPT members use an iPad for their documentation and more PTs have surely received or bought one for Christmas. After you sift through all the indiscriminant praise and the coffee-table novelty of this product, you are probably hit with an all too real question: How do I actually implement this product into my professional life? There is a current statistic that 30-50% of EMR implementations fail due to poor planning and potential technophobia.

If you are ready with iPad in hand, there are some key things you need to know regarding implementation using an EMR in your PT clinic. There are simply a few things that a PT, OT, or any healthcare provider should know before running out and spending the $500 on a new iPad.

1. Does your EMR work on the iPad?

Most EMR software is older, Windows-based software that will not work on the iPad at all. If you are using a modern, web-based EMR software like WebPT, you can use your iPad to run your EMR software wherever you have an Internet connection.  WebPT works on the iPad without any tricks or additional software. If your current EMR claims to be compatible with smartphones and tablet computers, make sure you actually test it before diving in.

2. The iPad is NOT a replacement for your computer

An iPad should be considered a mobile supplement to the technology you already use rather than a replacement. For example, an iPad does not have a USB port, which will not allow you to use other hardware with the device. If you have scanners, printers, cameras, fax machines (which I know you do) you will not be able to use them with an iPad as you currently do with desktop and laptop computers.  Windows and Macintosh software will not run on an iPad.

3. Typing text is slower than using a computer keyboard

The iPad has a touch screen keyboard much like a smart phone. This may be fine for typing in small numerical values and medical shorthand, but can become a hurdle for some when documenting longer medical history or corresponding with a referring physician. Coming from a healthcare perspective, where typing notes is a mission critical process, this can be slower and more cumbersome on the iPad. There are ways to avoid the touchscreen typing, but requires additional money to purchase new hardware. A portable docking station containing a keyboard can be purchased as an accessory. Overall, typing a long assessment for a patient’s treatment is not the most practical way to use the iPad.

4.  Mobility of your documentation is the key benefit

In a clinical setting, the key benefit to an iPad is getting mobile access to complete documenentation from anywhere. And it’s awesome. When completing an outcome measurement tool, recording ROM, strength, or key objective findings, you can actually sit with the patient and work through the tests easily.  This is one of the best features that mobile technology will give you in the clinic. Filling out an exercise flowsheet on an iPad is easy especially if your EMR has the capability of having multiple patient screens open at once. Actually recording your clinical testing values directly to your EMR at the Point of Care is a valuable perk. Not only will this save you time, but it allows therapists and patients to work through this together ultimately helping patients get a better understanding of the methods and the goals of their treatment. Going through an introductory patient interview becomes less time consuming and requires no paper for the patient to fill out when using the iPad.

We believe that technology should be a friend of the healthcare industry, specifically for rehab providers. The iPad is no exception. It can make your life easier and make the process of creating compliant and thorough documentation vastly better.

To see how the iPad works with WebPT, schedule a demo with one of our knowledgeable member representatives. Also, stay tuned for a WebPT webinar coming soon with tips and tricks to assist in the potential use of the iPad in your clinic.  We know that you will like what you see.