By Bronwyn Spira, PT, and Tejal Ramaiya, DPT, CSCS
The iPad is quickly transforming the way business is conducted in the media, entertainment and education sectors. But what about health care? What are the specific benefits of the iPad for physical therapists and what should you be cautious about? As a clinic that has actively been using the iPad for about 6 months now, we have found a number of tangible benefits. Documentation is much faster and happens in real time with each visit. We can track and log the time of each modality, which is especially useful for insurance billing. The small, flat screen is less obtrusive than a laptop – We always felt the screen created a physical and potentially emotional barrier between my patients and myself. We also like that the ipad can be easily handed to the patient for demonstration of a video exercise or other visual aids.
A couple of notes of caution – the iPad doesn’t have a USB port or printer connection so document management is challenging. Current battery life is shorter than the 12-hour workday and common flash-based applications don’t work.
The other issues we face when evaluating the iPad as a medical tool are fragility (it will break if dropped) and hygiene since it cannot be sterilized. The latter is probably less of an issue for physical therapists than other medical professionals, but certainly bears mentioning.
The true future of iPad use within physical therapy clinics will depend on the availability of medical apps for clinicians. It seems inevitable that as our world becomes more and more technology focused we will have to start thinking about how to maneuver our own clinical landscape.