A number of recent surveys have indicated that the Apple iPad is the number one choice for healthcare professionals when it comes to choosing a tablet.

This is hardly surprising given the head start the iPad has had compared to its competitors (read more here) and the significant development that has gone into medical apps for the iOS platform.

This article will attempt to help decide which particular iPad is the best choice for a healthcare professional who wants to use it as part of their daily workflow.

The choices available from the Apple Store at the time of writing are as follows:

  • iPad 2 3G/Wi-Fi 16GB
  • iPad 2 3G/Wi-Fi 32GB
  • iPad 2 3G/Wi-Fi 64GB

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This article will not consider the color of each device as that is a purely aesthetic choice. When it comes to purchasing an iPad, there are three main considerations, each of which will be addressed in turn:

  • Processing hardware
  • Storage space
  • Connectivity

Processing hardware

As tablets become more powerful, they gain the ability to run more demanding applications. This means that they are generally faster, better at multitasking and will be suitable for future software developments. The iPad 2 was a large hardware upgrade from the original iPad with an enhanced processor, more memory and two cameras amongst other features.

Due to this, the iPad 2 is recommended over the original iPad.

Storage space

The iPad 2 is available in three different sizes, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. The average app size for iPad apps is often larger than that of iPhone apps. One of the main functions of the iPad for medical professionals is storage and reading of medical literature. It is very easy to store large numbers of PDFs and presentations using apps such as PDF Expert/GoodReader. Apps such as Dropbox store the majority of documents online, however, they still require some local storage in order to display the files.

Another storage aspect worth considering is the rise of eTextbooks. Companies such as Inkling release excellent versions of core texts, though these can take up significant amounts of space– e.g. Inkling’s version of Harissons Principles of Internal Medicine is an amazing resource however it does take 3.4GB of space.

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One final consideration when it comes to storage is accessibility. This will be discussed in greater detail below. Essentially, if your hospital or workplace has excellent connectivity, the greater you will be able to rely on cloud based storage services such as Dropbox.

If your hospital has a number of deadspots or you are based in the community then chances are you will want to make greater use of local storage to ensure you have access to all your documents regardless of internet connectivity.

On the basis of this, the 32GB model is regarded as the minimum size for healthcare professionals. The 16GB model does not have enough local storage on it for it to function effectively and users with this model are likely to find themselves running out of space in the future. In an ideal world, the 64GB model with its significant amount of storage would be the ideal choice, however, this does come at a cost. Users who are keen to store lots of documents locally and other media such as videos and photos may find that this model suits their needs better.

Although not strictly medical, this info graphic from gizmodo helps illustrate the different storage sizes available.

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Connectivity

The final consideration when purchasing a new iPad is connectivity. All iPads are supplied with Wi-Fi as standard but a Wi-Fi + 3G model is also available. 3G keeps you connected to the internet even when Wi-Fi isn’t available and uses the same signals your mobile phone uses. It’s available without a contract and service is sold separately. Interestingly, Wi-Fi + 3G iPads include a GPS locator which the Wi-Fi only iPads do not.

Connectivity is an integral part of many medical apps which often store information online and download it as and when required. Similarly many iPads are used to input data into EMRs which also require internet connectivity. This is vital and therefore the Wi-Fi + 3G model is recommended for healthcare professionals. There is no need to purchase a contract for 3G data if there is Wi-Fi available, though it is useful to be able to access 3G if required.

Overall Rating

Having considered each of these three main points, it is clear that the iPad recommended for healthcare professionals is the 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. The 16GB model is not recommended on the basis of storage whilst the 64GB is not recommended on the basis of cost. 3G connectivity is essential to ensure that internet access is maintained in case there are deadspots in the hospital. The 32GB model should be more than adequate for the majority of users’ needs.