Tablets are revolutionizing the way higher education students learn and study, and med students are no exception. Colleges and universities across the country are making a point of integrating mobile technology into their medical curricula to enhance learning, improve patient care, and increase efficiency in the healthcare system.
The University of California at Irvine’s School of Medicine recently launched the iMedEd Initiative, outfitting incoming students from the class of 2014 with tablets. Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, the dean of UC Irvine’s School of Medicine, said the institution believes “a digitally-based curriculum will be the wave of the future…”
Medical students are bringing tablets to class whether or not their institution has a formal program, and they’re using these devices in three primary ways.
Historically, medical students would carry a veritable library of course texts from class to class, and studying meant navigating them all—a protracted and awkward experience at best. With the advent of tablets, publishers have started to get serious about digitizing their material. In fact, Rob Reynolds, director of research at Xplana, predicts that digital book sales in higher education will double to $1.5 billion by 2015, accounting for 25 percent of market share. And e-textbook vendors like CourseSmart and Barnes and Noble are leading the way.
For medical students, tablets do more than just consolidate textbooks. With applications like PDF Annotator, students can mark up e-texts with words or images, enhancing comprehension and learning. Typically, medical students need to be able to write notes and paste images in very confined spaces, so tablets that come with digitized stylus pens – like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – are very effective, as they enable precise annotations.
Drug Reference Apps
Throughout the course of their academic careers, medical students have to study medication—what they are prescribed for, whether there are harmful interactions, what class they’re in, etc. With thousands of medications available, simply recognizing drug names can be difficult. To meet this challenge, medical students are turning to drug reference apps, which are now available on every major tablet operating system.
Drug reference apps like Epocrates give students the ability to easily and quickly look up specific medication to view uses, properties, interactions and legality. Because tablets are mobile and drug reference apps rapidly load and run, medical students can quickly access drug information when they need it ― during class, before a test or while seeing a patient.
From calculating body mass index (BMI) to interpreting blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, medical students find themselves having to generate—and analyze–a large amount of data. And even with vigorous study, it’s still hard to commit it all to memory.
Enter medical calculators. In addition to typical calculations—like determining harmful blood sugar levels or obesity thresholds—medical calculators can also compute more esoteric things, like scoring the severity of alcoholic hepatitis. Comprehensive and user-friendly, these calculators are one of the most critical apps in a medical student’s arsenal, both in-class and onsite.
Most medical students intern at local hospitals, and students who are allowed to use tablets can rely on medical calculators to ensure the accuracy of their numbers, paramount in providing quality patient care. Check out two popular medical calculators Mediquation and MedCalc.
While any of these apps can be loaded on smartphones, the larger screen size, keypad and portability of tablets may make them a wiser investment for medical schools, hospitals and other healthcare settings.
If you’re a medical student or professor, tell us about your experiences with tablets in a college or university setting. What apps or functions do you use the most? Just comment below.