The main reason why the iPad Mini is the perfect prescription for doctors

I was skeptical about the iPad Mini.  I’ve used my Retina display iPad (3rd generation) for the past six months and been satisfied with the experience.

I’ve used it in the hospital setting during rounds, and even while talking to patients in the ER.  I’m able to easily pull up Epic’s EMR using the Citrix app, and I can easily store the iPad in my “iPad customized” white coat.

With the smaller screen size and the loss of a retina display, I assumed I would hate the Mini.  Since I’m the Editor of iMedicalApps, I felt it was my duty to report how the Mini functioned in the clinical setting, so I decided to give it a shot.

After just a few days with the Mini, I realized my assumptions were completely off.

Plenty of “analysts” have written how and why Doctors will adapt to the Mini. Most of them have named price and size, but they have no idea how the typical patient encounter works or the workflow of a Physician.

There is one main reason why I have become a fan of the Mini, and it’s the reason cited by many of my colleagues when I ask them why they switched.


1.46 pounds verse .69 pound doesn’t seem to be a big difference — I truly did not believe it would be. But the change in weight is tremendous in the clinic setting.

There are two instances highlighting this.

When you slide the Mini into your white coat pocket, you instantly notice a difference from the full size iPad. No longer does one side of your white coat feel more weighty than the other. With the full size iPad, I would often have to “balance out” my white coat during rounds because one side of my white coat would drag verses the other.

The other instance, and the reason why I have switched to the iPad Mini, is its handling when talking to patients. The full sized iPad feels like a brick in your hands during a patient encounter. You have to hold it with two hands, or worse, you have to cradle it in one arm while you tap on the EMR with a stylus in your other hand.

With the iPad Mini, no arm cradling is required.  It doesn’t feel like a brick in your hands by the time you’re tapping the Physical Exam portion into the patient chart. You can comfortably hold it in one hand and the weight doesn’t distract you from your patient encounter. The Mini feels like the typical clipboard you would use for a patient encounter, rather than an electronic brick.

Obviously, some caveats are important to mention.

If you have a Retina display iPad, you will definitely miss the higher screen resolution. But after a week you get used to a non-retina display, and you enjoy not having sore wrists after talking to a patient with your iPad.

Some analysts have argued that it’s harder to use an EMR with the Mini’s display. This is garbage. The great thing about the Mini is you get the same screen real estate that you would on a full sized iPad.  Of course, the objects and text are slightly smaller. I used Epic — the most popular Hospital EMR, and had no issues with doing parts of my chart and also putting in patient orders with the Mini.

Yes — the iPad Mini’s smaller size makes it easy to fit into your white coat — you no longer need a custom white coat for your iPad. Yes — the cheaper cost is another advantage.  But no, those are not the two main reasons why the Physician community will adopt the iPad Mini.

The lighter weight is the reason why.  The Mini is the clipboard Physicians have been waiting for.

Note: Check out the review I did of the Mini’s competitor, the Nexus 7.

If you have questions about the iPad Mini and clinical use, ask away in the comments section. 


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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24 Responses to The main reason why the iPad Mini is the perfect prescription for doctors

  1. Jeremy Kudrna November 20, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Hello. My name is Jeremy Kudrna, and I am a senior Neuroscience undergraduate at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities currently applying to medical school. I plan on purchasing an iPad before matriculating into medical school. I have been torn between the new Mini and the new Retina display. I was leaning towards the Retina display because I want to have the best visualizations possible. For me, the exercise of carrying around a little heavier iPad is worth the enhanced imaging information you are able to extrapolate from tests, X-rays, etc.

    I have been folowing Kevin Pho (@kevinmd) on Twitter for several months now and greatly benefit from his insights. My Twitter handle is @JeremyJKudrna. Feel free to tweet back or email me back at any time. I am still looking for input about which one is the better option for physicians and their patients. Thank you!

    • Iltifat Husain, MD November 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

      Hey Jeremy. I would still suggest the iPad mini for students. You say now that you wouldn’t mind carrying the extra weight, but until you actually carry the iPad in your coat for rounds you don’t realize how heavy it is. Also, in regards to the “best visualizations” possible, there is nothing you’re going to see in med school that would require you to have a retina display. If you’re a radiology resident, then maybe that would be a different story, but definitely not if you’re a med student. Seeing med students carrying around the bulky iPad verse the iPad Mini makes the choice even more clear. The ones carrying the iPad mini do so easily with minimal effort, while the ones carrying the iPad have a more difficult time.

    • Alex November 21, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Why not look into Google Nexus 7?

    • Alyssa Kerber November 21, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Hi Jeremy,
      I’m a student at the UofM-TC med school and thought it may be worth passing on that our white coat pockets are tiny (if you end up staying for med school). It is tight to fit a mini in one, much less a whole iPad. Lugging around something that doesn’t fit in your pocket is cumbersome. You won’t really need one your first two years, so waiting for a better mini display may not be a bad option.

    • M3 June 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      I would just wait for the iPad mini with the retina display. Rumors are that they will probably come out with it In the fall of 2013 or possibly the Spring of 2014. I think it’s worth the wait unless you need it now.

  2. Marc-Emile Plourde November 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    “Since I’m the Editor of iMedicalApps, I felt it was my duty to report how the Mini functioned in the clinical setting, so I decided to give it a shot.”
    I also like to make myself believe I need new iToys; somehow my GF doesn’t think along the same lines 😉

    Joking aside, I also think the iPad mini is a great size / weight for most physicians on the job

    • Iltifat Husain, MD November 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      hahaha, it’s a great “excuse” isn’t it? My wife doesn’t think along the same lines either Marc. Are you going to be using your iPad or Mini?

  3. Health As We Age November 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm #


    In working with aging services, what version of the iPad would you recommend for Senior Patient Education and Home Health monitoring?


    • Iltifat Husain, MD November 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      I would actually not recommend the Mini, as the text and buttons for apps is going to be smaller than the full sized edition.

    • Wayne Caswell November 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      I write about tech for seniors and agree with Dr. Husain that the larger screen size and Retina display is better for seniors. Several of my articles praise the iPad and iPhone as ideal home health gateways between medical & environmental sensors and remote monitoring services, but I’d like to point to one in particular. “An iPad for All Ages” ( positions the device as flexible enough for a 2-year-old or 82-year-old since no computer skills are required and, with iCloud and a cellular connection, no computer either. While I’ve become quite adept at using the on-screen keyboard, when I’m typing a lot I prefer a Bluetooth keyboard. Many come built into iPad cases, but I like my Logitech since it’s a full-size keyboard with good tactile feedback.

  4. Dr. Robert de Graaff MD PhD November 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    As long as Apple won’t provide us with proper interfacing technology (that’s USB to you and me) I would never recommend ANY Apple product in healthcare, regardless the state of the app ecosystem.

    • Iltifat Husain, MD November 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Really? Why is having a USB interface so important? Are you trying to connect peripheral devices to your iPad?

      • Dr. Robert de Graaff MD PhD November 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

        An iPad (or any other tablet) is useless in the clinical environment if it cannot communicate. Now as wi-fi can provide communication with the clinical network, there are several things to say about the “behavior” of Apple devices in “business” networks (they don’t allow system management very well), but yes, they can communicate. However, in an environment where interfacing with sensors becomes more and more important (our ICU monitors report directly to the appropriate staff’s tablets, for example), I’d say that Android and Windows devices are better suited, but blatantly overlooked (seemingly for lack of sexiness?).

  5. Mounir Touati November 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi everybody
    I’m a nurse from Canada,i’ve been using Retina iPad for my medical apps and was really happy with screen resolution ,but the problem with my iPad is the size and weight .I can’t carry it around in my pocket even if i really need it in my daily work:taking notes, education,drugs recognition and interactions,calculations and formulas, reading about pathologies and procedures…I went to Apple store to take a look at the mini and i found it incredibly light and it fits great in my pocket at a point that after a while i didnt even feel it was there and i guess this is the right tools for health professionals that might help them in daily tasks regardless of the screen resolution that may be some day will improve .But actually the mini is really practical and i totally agree with Dr.Husain in each and every word he said and would encourage each and every health professional to have it.

  6. Donita Kaspari November 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    This is a bit of a segue, but maybe someone here can point me in the right direction. I am a registered nurse in a Critical Care Care unit with many vented patients. We are hoping to implement an I-Pad ICU communication project and I am wondering what the best wasy to clean screens and keyboards between patient contact is. I need to meet the infection prevention needs and keep the device safe, as well. I looked at the Griffin AirStrap Med and wondered if it would work with a keyboard. Any insights anyone has would be most welcome.

  7. S.M. Linsey November 30, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    I appreciate the review. Do you ever have an instance where the patient uses the tablet?
    If so, what are those situations?

  8. DS January 1, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    I am trying to decide between the ipad and the mini. I am planning to use the device for patient education prior to surgery. The device would be used by patient in the exam room while they were waiting for me. I would have frequently asked questions about a procedure as well as video animations of the procedures I do (angioplasty, stenting, embolization). Since my patients span the whole gamut of age, I was leaning more towards the IPad since it would be easier for older people to watch videos and read on it. However, the idea of being able to carry the mini in my pocket is nice. Sometimes I think that I would lose the iPad because I would leave it someplace since it doesn’t fit in my pocket. I’m sure the next version of mini will have retina display so I will probably wait to purchase as I’m in no rush. Any comments on which size any of you would prefer to use if you were watching videos and reading about your procedure in the exam room while waiting for your doctor? Thanks

  9. Jessica February 13, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Hello- I know you wrote this article awhile ago now but I’m just looking into buying an iPad mini. I’m graduating from med school and will be starting residency in July. I personally have not used an ipad on rounds but I believe you’re right about the smaller size being a big advantage. How comfortable is the mini to read on? I plan on having several reference books on it. What GB size would you recommend for a typical resident? Thanks!

  10. Paul Starr December 29, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Has anybody had trouble getting the Citrix receiver on the ipad mini?
    So far I’ve spent three arduous hours trying to set up this nasty little piece of crap and it won’t download the Citrix receiver unless I use an ipad ID and for that it want’s my credit card number! WTF? I’ve never needed to input a credit card number to download citrix! I’m ready to throw this thing in the trash!

    • Iltifat Husain, MD December 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      It’s an easy download. Have you set up a proper iTunes account? I would suggest having someone help you setup the App Store on your iPad and then trying again. I am able to use it easily without any issues.

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