iPad could support “Handwriting Keyboard” – A requirement for medical point of care use in health care

Ever tried using your iPhone medical apps with gloves?  Doesn’t work too well.  Although, if you’ve got gloves on you probably shouldn’t be using your iPhone anyways.  The iPad is being touted by many, including us, as a device that could be used with patients at the point of care.  Translation:  Could be used in hospital rooms and procedure rooms that require you to be gloved up.

Since the iPad has a capacitive touch screen your gloves won’t work, and that plastic stylus from your old Palm PDA won’t work either.  There’s a solution to this, the Pogo Sketch, featured in the picture.

The Pogo Sketch becomes an extension of your fingers and works on a capacitive touch screen.  No longer making the iPad or your iPhone inoperable when you have gloves on.  But what if you have to type information on the iPad or the iPhone?  Since your gloved fingers won’t work, using a stylus to peck each letter on the pop up keyboard would be a huge ordeal.

To counter this, iPhone OS version 3.2, the operating system that will be running on the iPad, is rumored to have support for a “handwriting keyboard”, via Engadget.

….and, most interestingly, prototype support for a “handwriting keyboard.” Maybe we’ll see some stylus action on this thing after all.

The above revelation would be significant for the medical community, especially for health care providers who need the ability to write text efficiently with gloved hands or while standing up.  I can imagine myself using this capability to type short notes or even prescriptions for patients while in a standing position in the hospital room.  The alternative would be to use the external keyboard connected to the iPad, definitely more cumbersome, and this would require you to sit down and have desk space.  And as most know, desk space isn’t exactly present in a hospital room.

I’m assuming Apple will not reserve this type of functionality for just the iPad, and will bring it to the iPhone and iPod Touch devices as well.  If they want to make waves in healthcare IT, they would be wise to.


Iltifat Husain, MD

Founder, Editor-in-Chief of iMedicalApps.com. Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Mobile App curriculum at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He is also the founder of iPrescribeApps, a platform for prescribing apps to patients. Dr. Husain has given lectures on digital medicine globally. He went to North Carolina State University for undergrad and went to medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

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6 Responses to iPad could support “Handwriting Keyboard” – A requirement for medical point of care use in health care

  1. mark January 30, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    Not really sure why a stylus wouldn’t work for the iPad? Could you explain what a “capacitive” touchscreen is and why Apple would use it instead of a screen that would allow you to use gloves or a stylus, as PDAs of the past could?

  2. Iltifat Husain January 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm #


    Good question. This is actually a topic we should consider turning into a post so our medical readers have a better idea of the difference between a capacitive touch screen and traditional (“resistive”) touch screens.

    The quick difference is that resistive touch screens require physical contact to register touch (e.g. using a plastic stylus), while the capacitive screen uses the conductivity of your finger. Thats why it won’t work when you are gloved up in the hospital/clinic. The reason apple is using the capacitive touch screen is because they are more accurate, with the obvious benefit of being able to use your fingers w/o requiring any sort of pressure on the screen.

    This will be a good topic to discuss in detail in the future, thanks for the question!

  3. StatCoder.com January 31, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    I believe that resistive screens (the old style) are more accurate, however, they require some pressure so that the flicking and swiping gestures don’t work. I’m wondering exactly how accurate a stylus would be on a capacitive screen. I believe that when you go to an Apple Store, they do the transaction on an iPod Touch with a card-reader sled and have you sign with something that looks like a large Q-tip with a soft tip – not a pointed stylus.

    I’m wondering what situation would make it good to be using a touch pad with a gloved hand. Presumably, you have a glove on because you have some exposure to bodily fluids so whatever surface you are touching will become contaminated, won’t it? It almost seems like it would be better to cover your iphone with a disposable wrapper if necessary than to turn your smartphone into a fomite.

  4. Iltifat Husain January 31, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Yea, definitely agree with the last point, thats why at the beginning I mentioned that if you’re gloved up, you probably don’t want to use your iPhone anyways.

    Whats key though is the possible handwriting keyboard they might build into the iPad OS. I know there are apps that do this, but the lack of built in functionality prevents you from using it within more complex applications. If they bring this to the iPhone device I think many providers would appreciate it, would be nice for writing scripts using care360 and other eprescribing methods.

    Also, I’m going to look into this more for a future post, but in terms of accuracy capacitive screens aren’t technically “more accurate”. However, they are still relatively new technology, and apparently Apple’s screens are extremely accurate compared to its competitors.

  5. iphone-gloves February 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    go to http://www.iphone-gloves.com. they sell special touchscreen gloves for medical industry. also for hotels too.

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