How Stanford Medical Students are using their school issued iPads

In July our report of the Stanford School of Medicine giving iPads to all incoming medical students captured a great deal of attention – the story alone received tens of thousands of views.

Recently, the School of Medicine highlighted how students have been using their iPads – commenting on how frequently they are being used, textbook capabilities, and even on how certain applications are being used.

The school has also collected some preliminary data that quantitates how many of the 91 students who were given iPads are actually using them – or if they are using them at all.

Brian Tobin, the school’s instructional technology manager has stated students are customizing their usage of the iPad based on how it helps them to study:

“Everyone is doing their own thing,” said Tobin “Some students are learning on it really well. Others have decided that laptops are still the best option. Some still use paper. And others use some mix of all three.”

Tobin also commented on how students are being encouraged to go paperless. The push is to get students to replace traditional texts with e-books – to take traditional note taking methods and make them electronic. The school is encouraging students to use the iPad when in the cadaver lab, from viewing anatomy to viewing pathology slides.

For note taking the school has put iAnnotate, a popular annotation app we have reviewed in the past, on each iPad. Students have found the drawing and highlighting tools within the app helpful in gross anatomy and are using it for traditional note taking as well.

Preliminary data shows 68 of the 91 students are using the iPad exclusively for note taking. Eight students are sticking exclusively to their laptops – eight are using traditional paper and pencil handwriting – and the rest are using a combination of tools for note taking. Overall though, no one has replaced their study tools with just the iPad.

Only some of the medical textbooks are available digitally – and the school hopes this will change as more medical texts become available electronically. McGraw Hill, one of the leading publishers of medical textbooks, already has partnerships in place with e-book developers for the iPad and hopefully a greater demand in medical texts will only help facilitate the conversion of these texts.

The news of more than 70% of the students using their iPads exclusively for note taking should be welcome knowledge to educators who might be thinking of implementing similar programs at their undergraduate universities and graduate schools. This also shows a relatively high level of technical competency displayed by the medical school class – something educators should take note of with the “Facebook and twitter” generation.

As the year progresses, the school will be conducting regular surveys to see how students are using their iPads.

If a Stanford Medical Student would like to write on our website about their own personal experiences with using the iPad for medical education don’t hesitate to contact us:

Source: Stanford School of Medicine


Iltifat Husain, MD

Founder, Editor-in-Chief of 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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17 Responses to How Stanford Medical Students are using their school issued iPads

  1. Thebabydoc September 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    Do you know which app most are using to take notes? Are they writing on PDFs in iAnnotate mostly, or is there another program they are using?

    • Iltifat Husain September 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

      We will have a post coming from one of the students of UC Irvine medical school (within the next week) – they have actually started the same program at their med school. And he provides some great insight into apps that they are using for note taking – really interesting stuff.

  2. HealthFinch September 20, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Are there any medicine specific applications which are being used by the students? Or are they all general study tools like iAnnotate?

    • Iltifat Husain September 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

      We have currently made contact with the Stanford team. Once we talk to them about more of the details we’ll come up with another post or add to this current one. We’ll let you know soon, good question, thanks-

  3. Kas October 7, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    Any idea what texts they have on their machines – or is it whatever is available from the App store, but bought in bulk?

    • Iltifat Husain October 7, 2010 at 7:09 am #

      We have a post releasing later today/tomorrow that will describe some
      of the texts being used by other med schools on the iPad

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