iPads enhance student experience

Students beginning the application phase of the TEC curriculum were given iPads loaded with patient care and educational resources. Richard Hobbs, MD, is leading this new program.

iPads enhance student experience click to enlarge Students work on their iPads at a recent training session
iPads enhance student experience click to enlarge Richard Hobbs, MD

Students beginning their Application Phase at the UNC School of Medicine will do so with a new tool at their disposal: iPads. Richard Hobbs, MD, director, UNC School of Medicine Technology in Medical Education Program, is leading the new program after a successful pilot last year in the pediatrics clerkship, which he leads.

Hobbs has loaded the iPads with apps spanning the needs of medical students. There are entire textbooks and test prep resources for student work, the Electronic Health Record, drug databases and medical calculators for patient care, and even communication aids, drawing apps and videos for patient education.

“Medicine should be taught differently today than it was twenty years ago. Instead of memorization of facts, it is much more important to teach students how to thoughtfully approach patient care and then know where to access needed information. With the iPads, the goal is to provide ‘just in time’ resources for when the students need them, whether that is during a patient interaction, talking to a resident, or answering a clinical question at the bedside,” Hobbs said.

The iPad minis are small enough to fit inside the pocket of a white coat, replacing the folded lecture notes, and heavy texts students often carry. Hobbs led training sessions for students, walking them through all the resources available on the devices and providing tips for how effectively to use them with patients.

“Technology isn’t going away. What if we taught this generation of students how to use technology to improve patient care instead of seeing it as a barrier?”  Hobbs hopes the iPad can be a benefit for patient interactions: “if you’re discussing a symptom or a new diagnosis, it’s easy to just hand the patient the tablet and teach them about their condition or prepare them for a procedure,” Hobbs said. “Allowing that level of interactivity can really make patients feel like they are taking a more active role in their care.”

Students in the application phase doing clinical rotations in Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte, and other sites across the state will all be able to access the same resources on their devices. Hobbs said that is a key bridge between students training at other sites and the main campus in Chapel Hill. He worked with leaders from those clinical sites, UNC SOM information systems, the Office of Medical Education, Apple, and medical student representatives on the development of the iPads’ content.

All members of UNC’s Physician’s Assistant (PA) program also have the devices. Hobbs worked with PA program faculty to tailor the ressources on the devices to the students in their program.

“Our program compresses a lot of learning into two years, so our students having this resource at their fingertips has been incredible helpful already,” said Mary Beth McGranaghan, PhD, PA Program Academic Coordinator. “Even some of our students who were initially hesitant have become the biggest proponents.”

Brooke Matson, a student in the MD-PhD program, said she’s excited about having these educational resources so easily accessible.

“I can already see how this will help me to provide clear, accurate information to patients in real time,” Matson said. “I’m really shocked by how much is available to me on the device and I look forward to seeing which will be most helpful to me.”

 Laura Derry said the iPad will allow her to have up-to-date information at the point of care.

“I know I will use this a ton during pre-rounding,” Derry said.

During the pilot phase last year, Hobbs collected data on the iPad usage and will continue to do so this year. The iPads are currently funded through the Office of Medical Education and will be part of student fees in subsequent years. Dr. Hobbs is also looking for interested faculty and residents to partner in future technology projects.