by: Michelle Kraft

The use of iPads in medicine has been growing and it is quickly becoming the must have tool in the hospital. Many academic medical libraries have gotten into the business of loaning iPads to physicians, just the same as they would loan a book.

The libraries at the Nova Southeastern University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and University of Central Florida are just three examples.

Medical libraries outside of the United States are also placing iPads in the hands of doctors.

The Central Medical Library at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands started off by loaning three iPads. Its program has been so successful they have added another five to the rotation. Details of their program can be found on their wiki page.

How physicians are using the iPads is not surprising. Amanda Chiplock MLS, the Acquisitions Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Nova Southeastern University Health Professions Division Library reported that most of the physicians who borrow their iPads are using them for teaching and presentations (45%) or videos and research (40%).

Borrowing duration varies with each institution – some lend the iPads out for day while others permit them to be borrowed for 3-4 weeks. Given the fact that multiple people are using the devices, one might be concerned about security and maintenance. Michael Garner MLS, Medical Informatics Librarian at the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Science Library University of Central Florida College of Medicine, says wiping saved information from the devices upon their return is a fairly easy and quick process. “Users can add their own content. When the users return the devices we wipe the devices by using commands within the device.”


Because users can install apps on the same device, doctors who check out an iPad can use their personal apps along with institutionally supported apps that are pre-loaded. After the iPad is returned to the library, the individual still owns and has access to any of their purchased apps because they were purchased through their own personal iTunes user account.

The apps that are pre-loaded on the iPad vary at each location. Many come with apps specific to the institution’s medical programs. Some libraries have loaded utility or office type apps like Apple’s iWork apps, QuickOffice, Docs2Go, DropBox, Evernote, Penultimate, Adobe Photoshop Express, iBooks, and Kindle.

One area that has proven to be a challenge has been allowing access to the hospital EMR through the iPad due to IT security concerns. However, there are several hospitals that have worked out the security issues and have integrated the use of iPads into their EMR systems. Palmetto General Hospital allows Nova Southeastern University library iPads to access the EMR and iPads are able to access EMR at the Mayo Clinic as well.

Even though these hospitals are currently the exception to the rule for providing access to secure parts of the network, Dr. Robert Hasty, D.O., FACOI, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Program Director of Palmetto General Hospital Internal Medicine Residency thinks it is the future.
He says,

“iPads/tablet devices are the future of how physicians will care for patients. There is a learning curve with any technology and patience with the transition to the iPad is well worth the benefits.”

Even if a library isn’t loaning iPads, it may already have an extensive list of institutional resources such as ebooks, databases, and other sites for doctors with iPads to use. Many have created lists guiding doctors to apps and mobile friendly resources that are free or are paid for and available via the library’s subscriptions. Several are listed on the iMedicalApps Forum.

The future of medical librarians and information management is being reshaped by mobile technology. Librarians often work closely with physicians and welcome suggestions. Jennifer McDaniel MLS, Education and Research Librarian at Tompkins-McCaw Library for Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University says:

“As libraries, we do a really good job of providing access to tools, but we need the input of the doctors to help us understand the effectiveness of tools like iPads for their work and additionally, the barriers for implementations that doctors face.”