Getting in trouble for mobile medical learning

Last year I gave my brother an iPad for his birthday since he was starting his rotations as a 3rd year medical student and I knew he would be doing more mobile learning since most of his time would be spent in the wards.

He had downloaded medical iBooks and other medical apps to help him on his clerkship rotations and the initial experiences with the iPad were great. He was using a logitech keyboard case (our favorite for physicians) and stated he hardly used his laptop anymore. He said his iPad was great for looking up clinical reference material during and inbetween rounds — enabling him to “learn on the go”.

When I checked in with him during his 3rd clerkship rotation, his enthusiam had markedly dampened.

He told me he had stopped using his iPad in his current rotation — citing a bad evaluation as the reason. When I read the evaluation I was shocked.  Apparently he was “relying on his iPad too much” during clinical rounds to look up information, and not relying enough on textbooks.  So the issue wasn’t looking up information — rather, he was looking up too much “electronic” information.

Reading between the lines, my suspicion is they felt he was using his iPad for “non-medical purposes”.

Obviously, this is just one anedcotal example. But this reminded me of an article I wrote a few months ago titled, “Do you avoid using your iPhone’s medical apps in the hospital for social reasons?”  In the article I discussed the social issues related to using an iPad and iPhone in the hospital. When you pick up a textbook people know exactly what you’re doing: Either pretending to read, or actually learning. When you pick up an iPad during rounds, you could be playing Angry birds or using it for clincal utility.

I’m not sure how to remedy a situation such as this. I think the onus is on the medical school for instilling a culture of mobility — this would prevent medical students and residents from feeling any sort of stigma associated with using mobile devices.