By Tracy Granzyk MS

First Posted at Educate the Young on 10/29/2012

Tracy Granzyk MS, Managing Editor, Educate the Young

When Stanford announced they were supplying iPads to their medical students in 2010, they become one of the first medical schools to begin the transition to mobile learning. But now, the number of medical schools across the US handing out iPads with stethoscopes to their first year students is increasing, as the cost to supply the device is becoming far less of an obstacle once students and educators experience the doors that open with the device in hand.

The Yale School of Medicine now provides iPads to all their medical students after a successful pilot program last spring. In a Medical News Today post last March, Yale’s Assistant Dean for Curriculum shared that “it costs about $1,000 per student to provide paper copies of course materials. This is about the same cost as providing an iPad and supporting apps.”

“We pretty much break even,” said Schwartz, “but the iPad is better for the environment – and as an information delivery system, it’s much more versatile.”

At Yale, students and physicians are using the tablet in both the clinical and educational environments. The have found that the benefits are far exceeding the initial goal of note taking in class — instant access to the global library of online reference material, video streaming, the ability to collaborate in real-time and the built-in mobility–are just some of those benefits. Textbooks themselves come to life, and become increasingly interactive when loaded to the iPad, and educators are able to change and update curriculum, delivering it to students digitally, in real-time.

In a September 2012 post on eWeek, iPad Program Launches at University of Pennsylvania Medical School, writer Brian Horowitz shares how The Perelman School of Medicine not only gave iPads to their medical students, but also redesigned the white coats with pockets to fit the device. Putting iPads in the hands of students and educators is changing the way content is delivered, shared and used during class, as the device is changing how students learn. Neal Rubinstein MD, professor of cell and developmental biology at Perelman, comments:

“The iPad is bringing a new dimension to my teaching,” said Rubinstein. “By getting rid of the limitations of paper notes and books, I can teach students how to think critically and act on their curiosity in a way I couldn’t before. The textbook no longer defines our students’ educational experience.”

According to iMedicalApps in a post earlier this year, Top 10 free iPad Medical Appsthe ability to capitalize on what the iPad offers health science education will be only as good as the apps available. Currently, there are over 2500 free medical related apps available for the iPad, and the number of medical apps overall is projected to grow 25% per year over the next five years. Today, apps allow students and physicians to view human anatomy in color, 3D-images, take handwritten notes and create .pdf documents, download a New England Journal of Medicine subscription directly to their iPad and look up drug interactions in comprehensive drug dictionaries–and that is just scratching the surface of the informational power apps deliver to the user.

Did Steve Jobs have any idea how this device would change not only medical education, but the way the world interacts with the growing amount of information available to us? Please share how you are using the iPad, or related technology, to enhance medical education.

Patricia Salber MD, MBA (@docweighsin)
Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is also a physician executive who has worked in all aspects of healthcare including practicing emergency physician, health plan executive, consultant to employers, CMS, and other organizations. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.


  1. Great post. The iPad is definitely revolutionizing medical education, even without the direct integration into the course by medical schools.

    As you’ve already said, it gives students and physicians alike, instant access to a world of resources, which they can tailor to suit their needs. My medical school has yet to integrated mobile technology into our course in anyway, but since I could see the majority of us (400+ students) had some form of iOS Device I created an app for our cohort ->

    I had very little coding experience when I started that project over 2yrs ago, but it just shows you that by using the internet anything is possible. I taught myself the basics of coding and now for well over a year my fellow medical students have an app which they can use to access most of our core resources. It’s far from pretty, but it works.

    With the iPad Mini now out, there are more opportunities for medical schools to harness the power of mobile technology and integrate it into their curriculum.


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