HealthDay News — Internal medicine residents who were given Apple iPads to access electronic health records were more efficient at ordering tests and procedures for their patients, data from one university program show.

Among 115 residents at the University of Chicago, 78% reported that using an iPad for clinical responsibilities made them more efficient and 68% said using the device helped them avoid delays in patient care. On average, residents who used the iPads estimated the devices saved them about an hour each day.

In addition to these perceived benefits, more orders were placed within the first two hours of patient admission  after iPad implementation (OR=1.06; P=.04).

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“It seems that personal mobile computing can help improve perceived and actual resident efficiency in an era of increasing work compression,” Bhakti K. Patel, MD, of the University of Chicago, where the study was conducted, wrote in a research letter published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

As electronic health record implementation becomes ubiquitious, clinicians are spending more time locating a computer or working on a computer, sometimes at the expense of time spent bedside with patients or conferencing.

To investigate whether personal mobile computers could help improve resident workflow efficiency and patient care, Patel and colleagues surveyed residents at the University of Chicago in the month prior to iPad implementation and again four months post-implementation. The researchers also compared all patient orders placed in the first 24 hours after a new admission for the three months pre- and post-implemention. Nearly all participants (99%) completed the post-implementation survey.

Among residents who were given iPads, 90% reported using the device for clinical responsibilities, with 75% reporting that they used it on a daily basis. More than half of residents (56%) said they felt they could attend more conferences by using their iPads. Interestingly, more interns reported improved efficiency with iPad use than residents (89% vs. 71%; P=0.03).

Although the number of orders per admission did not change after residents began using the devices, the timing of orders did — with more orders placed prior to post-call attending rounds (33% precall vs. 38% postcall; P<.001), before departure of the post-call team (56% precall vs. 64% postcall; P<.001), and in the first two hours of admission (OR=1.06; P=0.04).

In an editor’s note, Mitchell H. Katz, MD, praised the study and remarked on the value of bedside tablet use in enabling clinicians to spend more times with patients.

“As the price of tablets declines and the power of information management and decision support grows, I believe the value of tablets on the inpatient service will only increase — perhaps in ways we cannot currently even imagine,” Katz wrote.

Patel BK et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(5):436-438.

Katz MH. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(5):438.