MANUSCRIPT: Real-time use of the iPad by third-year medical students for clinical decision support and learning: a mixed methods study.
Despite widespread use of mobile technology in medical education, medical students’ use of mobile technology for clinical decision support and learning is not well understood. Three key questions were explored in this extensive mixed methods study: 1) how medical students used mobile technology in the care of patients, 2) the mobile applications (apps) used and 3) how expertise and time spent changed overtime.
This year-long (July 2012-June 2013) mixed methods study explored the use of the iPad, using four data collection instruments: 1) beginning and end-of-year questionnaires, 2) iPad usage logs, 3) weekly rounding observations, and 4) weekly medical student interviews. Descriptive statistics were generated for the questionnaires and apps reported in the usage logs. The iPad usage logs, observation logs, and weekly interviews were analyzed via inductive thematic analysis.
Students predominantly used mobile technology to obtain real-time patient data via the electronic health record (EHR), to access medical knowledge resources for learning, and to inform patient care. The top four apps used were Epocrates(®), PDF Expert(®), VisualDx(®), and Micromedex(®). The majority of students indicated that their use (71%) and expertise (75%) using mobile technology grew overtime.
This mixed methods study provides substantial evidence that medical students used mobile technology for clinical decision support and learning. Integrating its use into the medical student’s daily workflow was essential for achieving these outcomes. Developing expertise in using mobile technology and various apps was critical for effective and efficient support of real-time clinical decisions.