[Ed. Note: This post will be part of an ongoing series on the efforts of the Johns Hopkins Internal Medicine program to go mobile. Given that Dr. Misra (iMedicalApps senior editor) is part of this effort, we will be able to share an honest, insider perspective that can help others learn from the Hopkins experience. Not only was this permitted by the Hopkins program leadership, it was embraced, and for that we are grateful. ]

Medical training is currently undergoing a dramatic change. Duty hour reforms, increasing financial and regulatory demands, and a healthcare system at the center of a political battle are among the extraordinary pressures being exerted on the traditional training model.

These pressures require that training programs at all levels – from medical school to the most sub-specialized fellowships – rethink how we do pretty much everything.

Recently, the Johns Hopkins Internal Medicine residency program distributed iPads to its housestaff as part of an effort to do just that. The aims of the program are quite broad – to increase the efficiency of in-hospital care, enhance clinical training of residents, improve patient-physician communication, and more.

The mobile platform is relatively young in terms of its utilization in healthcare and many of the potential applications, benefits, and pitfalls remain to be discovered. As this program continues to grow and evolve, iMedicalApps will continue to share the the insider perspective on the Hopkins experience as part of our shared desire to drive this process forward. In this first installment, we’ll start by addressing the question – why the iPad?

Why the iPad

There are many tablet’s out there that are similar, and in some ways, better than the iPad. In fact, Apple is in a legal dispute with Samsung because they claim the Galaxy tab is a repackaged iPad. And the question certainly came up – why not go with another tablet? Android is arguably a more malleable platform than iOS, many of the tablets are cheaper, and there are many more options.  We’ve had great debates on iMedicalApps in the past about this subject.

Here are a few reasons why we went with the iPad.

The iPad has a head start

When looking to launch a mobile platform, you have to consider your audience. And in any clinical practice, that will include a range of familiarity with consumer technologies, specifically in this case tablets. Among those that were already using tablets, all of them were using iPads. That simple detail confers a number of advantages.

First, with the iPad, we have a group of individuals who are already “embedded” within the our audience. So not only had their use of the device already piqued the interest of others, they also were engaged in this program from the beginning. After launch, these individuals can provide both formal and informal help to colleagues who are less familiar with the device and platform.

Second, in terms of program planning and development, we already had a wealth of experience due to using the iPad in our own institution. These early adopters had already problem-solved a number of issues, found some of the potential efficiencies to be gained, and even identified potential new applications and enhancements.

Third, the launch of the iPad program at the University of Chicago was certainly helpful as their program leadership was quite forthcoming with their own experiences.

The choice Android offers wasn’t all that helpful

Choice is a great thing for the average consumer, but not necessarily for an enterprise. In considering Android as an option, several issues arose that led us to conclude that the iPad was the best choice.  One of the main issues — choosing an Android device involves several extra steps.

First, we would likely order a few different devices, test them out, and then, for practical reasons, probably pick one device. Picking more than one would complicate everything from picking accessories to device management by the IT folks. And if were going to choose a single device in the end, then the value of choice for individual housestaff is ultimately lost anyways.

Another argument could be made that Android potentially offers cost-savings in comparison to the iPad. However, we determined early on that we didn’t need the 3G connectivity nor did we need the 32gb memory. Our application of the device is primarily for in-hospital use where WiFi connectivity is available – this makes the 16gb WiFi iPad the natural choice and very competitive in terms of pricing, roughly $500.00.

What about apps?

Apps are a big part of success of any mobile platform. We’ve talked before about how their absence in the Blackberry and Windows environments are an Achille’s heel for those platforms. However, the difference between iPad and Android apps did not end up being a significant factor in the selection of the iPad as our platform of choice.

Perhaps it was the sense of parity between iPad and Android, given that most major apps are available on both. Additionally, the issue of app compatibility across different Android devices was less of a concern since we would most likely only be dealing with one Android device anyways.

These reasons, among others, were major drivers in our selection of the iPad as the platform of choice in our efforts to go mobile. Please share your thoughts and experiences below as we’d love to hear and learn from other efforts.