Residents reading journals on iPad, not radiology exams

Although the iPad has made a splash in radiology education, the impact of the leading tablet on daily clinical duties has been limited, according to a study published online June 26 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Justin W. Kung, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues found that most residents at their institution used an iPad daily when provided with one, but not for reading radiology exams.

“This study showed that the majority of residents at the authors' institution have incorporated the iPad as an educational tool and use it as a learning aid,” wrote the authors. “Incorporation of the iPad into clinical workflow has been less pronounced.”

All 38 radiology residents at Beth Israel Deaconess were provided iPad 2 tablets and subscriptions to e-Anatomy, a digital anatomy atlas, and STATdx, an online reference and decision support tool, according to the authors. Residents were surveyed after six months to get their opinions on the use of the iPad in radiology.

Of the 36 residents who completed the survey, 86 percent reported daily iPad use, with e-Anatomy or other radiology-specific applications seeing heavy use. For reading journal articles, 70 percent of the residents preferred the iPad, though respondents were evenly split over whether they preferred physical textbooks to their tablet counterparts.

Just under half of the residents used their iPads during readout, and only 25 percent had used them for viewing radiologic examinations, reported Kung and colleagues. Only 12 percent had used the iPad to edit dictated reports.

The authors noted that the relative lack of clinical use was not surprising. The iPad’s mobility makes it great for reading reference material, but it lacks features to make it more useful for clinical duties. A radiologist taking calls from home may have need for a remote diagnostic tool, but residents are rarely far from a full-featured PACS workstation, and the standard iPad does not have a keyboard, making it less efficient for entering text.

“The full impact of this device on resident education will depend on the development of applications that harness the unique ability of this medium for training the next generation of radiologists,” the authors concluded.