In a recent issue of Medical Teacher, a group of medical educators described eight best practices for using the iPad and other tablets in medical education based on the experiences of seven medical schools.
Medical educators from the Medical College of Georgia interviewed faculty and administrators at seven medical institutions that had deployed tablets in their curriculum. That list includes first-on-the-block Stanford, where first-year students received iPads back in 2010, and UC Irvine, where educators have tested a variety of technologies including tablets and Google Glass.
Eight best practices emerged from the interviews with educators at each of these institutions based on their own successes and shortcomings.
- Plan before you implement
- Define focused goals
- Establish a tablet culture
- Recruit an appropriate implementation team
- Invest time in orientation of students to tablets
- Involve students in mentoring other students
- Accept variable use among students
- Encourage innovation
The first two, planning before implementation and defining focused goals, focus on the pre-deployment phase. For example, setting up a mobile device management (MDM) service is important if students are going to be accessing PHI on the tablets or if you want to push medical apps to the devices. Pushing useful apps like Epocrates, Journal Club, UptoDate, QxMD Calculate, and QxMD Read.
And beyond the technical issues, there is an even more critical question – what problem or need is being addressed with the tablet? That means taking the time to understand how students are learning in the classroom and on the wards, identifying areas for improvement, and whether having tablet devices could help. Defining specific goals with metrics you can follow to gauge success, whether its use statistics or periodic surveys, is critical as well.
Another key area is getting the right people involved in the program. While that may include the usual deans and clerkship directors, others can offer crucial perspectives needed to build a successful program. For example, few people have a better grasp of how to get information, whether its the latest study or a good reference, than a medical librarian.
And having representatives of your target users – students – is critical to making sure the tablet fits into their daily workflow rather than trying to reshape their days to the tablet. They can also be great champions for the program after launch.
Tablets can be really useful tools in medical education, particularly given the growing number of outstanding medical apps out there. This manuscript nicely summarizes some of the lessons learned in early adopter programs and can provide a great preliminary roadmap for medical educators thinking about making this leap.