iPad Program Launches at University of Pennsylvania Medical School

Incoming students at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine are getting iPads to study the human anatomy and white coats with a pocket that will hold the Apple tablets.

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has announced it will equip all incoming students with a third-generation iPad and a white coat with a pocket that will fit the light and thin Apple tablet.

Students will use the iPad in classes, as well as with patients in the hospital. The program involves 340 students, according to Penn Medicine, which encompasses the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Perelman. Founded in 1765, Perelman is the nation's first medical school.

The school held a ceremony on Aug. 10 to award the iPad-ready white coats to students.

By using the iPads, they'll be able to avoid using 20,000 sheets, or 40 reams of paper, for class notes, according to the medical school.

Students will use the tablets to view animated, full-color images of human anatomy. They'll also receive updates to their course curriculum in real time, Penn Medicine reported.

Over the past year, the school's curriculum office organized a pilot project to test the functionality of the iPad for use in the school.

"I think the use of iPads is becoming very important in the classroom and also the clinical setting," Jerome Molleston, a third-year M.D./ Ph.D. student, said in a Penn Medicine blog post. Molleston was among the second- and third-year students who tested the tablet over the past few months. "I've become a bit of an evangelist for the iPad here at Perelman, as it's absolutely changed the way I prepare for class, learn and collaborate with fellow students."

Students use resources such as First Consult, which provides evidence-based answers to clinical questions at the point of care.

The iPad program at Penn is part of a growing trend of iPad use at medical schools, including Stanford and Yale.

"It's been pretty much an unmitigated success," Anna Delaney, the Perelman School of Medicine's chief administrative officer for academic programs, told eWEEK. "I was a little worried about it. I'm not going to lie."

Delaney wanted both tech-savvy and "Luddite" students for the pilot. The experiment involved leaving behind black-and-white printouts of PDFs and replacing them with 3D color animations on the iPad.

"It's hard to understand an organ when it's black and white," said Delaney. "It just doesn't work."

Printing the whole animation also involved lugging around a lot of paper, she added.

Now students are adjusting to watching cells split in 3D on the iPad.

"It was hard for those students not used to pattern recognition to adapt," said Delaney. "This has made it a lot easier for them to manipulate images for their own learning."

By using the iPad to access studies and medical journals, the tablet increases students' capabilities for critical thinking, said Dr. Neal A. Rubinstein, Penn's associate professor of cell and developmental biology.

"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."

A key benefit in using the iPad is the ability to view medical images and tables, according to Delaney.

Professors are able to work with students to build touch-screen textbooks, called iBooks, on the iPad to view interactive diagrams, photos and videos.

The touch-screen iBooks with their animated slide decks, notes, images, videos and textbook links act as "one-stop shopping," said Delaney.

Students are using iBooks to study areas such as cell tissue, biochemistry, metabolism and neuroscience, said Delaney.

First- and second-year medical students are currently the heavy iPad users at the school, said Delaney. Third-year students are also joining the project, she said.

The students are using the iPad to review lecture material, stream videos and present work in groups, she said. In cardiology courses, students are given an electrocardiogram onscreen and asked to explain the meaning of lines and bumps and relate it to the anatomy of the heart, said Delaney.

They use a program called Box to download materials and upload them to an app called GoodNotes, in which the students take notes, she said. They also can use other applications to take notes, Delaney added.

Students are using the iPad in exam rooms to show diagrams of procedures to patients in advance of surgery.

In addition to 79 percent of doctors preferring the iPad, according to research firm Aptilon, the Apple device is the choice for medical students over competing tablets.

"In terms of the imaging, the iPad is far and above the better product right now," said Delaney. "There will come a time when there is a better alternative, probably, but we're not there right now."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify details about the iPad program at the Perelman School of Medicine.