Although medical schools started providing students with iPads as early as 2011, Dr. Bernhard Wiedermann, a professor of pediatrics at George Washington’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said the school was waiting for the appropriate time to make the transition.
“We had a committee that studied this for about five months to develop a strategic plan, and the most important overarching guiding principle of this is that our curriculum, our learning goals, and our objectives are driving this,” Wiedermann told MobiHealthNews. “And by that I mean technologic capabilities or limitations are not going to dictate what our curriculum is. So iPads, for example, support that. I think the key was more developing resources to focus on a curricular revision where we could envision the technology.”
The new curriculum, meant to enhance a medical student’s education, focuses more on understanding and explaining the material instead of rote memorization, but will also require professors to develop different teaching methods and use iPads as well to get accustomed to the changes for next year.
“An example is, early in the medical school year students might get together and develop an iPad-based educational material for the patients, with a particular disease process where they can demonstrate the key elements of the anatomy, or different things like that and use it to explain the process to patients,” Wiedermann said. “And if they can do that, and have it be well understood by the layperson, that’s a mastery of material much earlier in their medical training than has been expected in the past.”
Wiedermann also said that the school chose iPads versus other tablets because of the availability of existing content, such as apps and other resources.
“This does require a different infrastructure, not just technologically, but our IT shop at the medical school was very PC and Windows-focused and we ended up choosing an Apple product,” Wiedermann said. “So now everybody is getting up to speed on supporting those devices, and there’s an infrastructure. It’s really blended in with the entire curricular revision, but there’s certainly a cost for that, but this has been a long time planning … It does take an investment, especially upfront, with faculty development and things like that.”
Students will use the iPads for the first year and a half under the management of the school through a mobile device manager called Casper Suite, but after students begin working in clinics, Wiedermann says, they will release the iPads to the students to use in whatever capacity they choose.
The iPads will be preloaded with apps that the school has yet to finalize and will have 64 GB of storage so that students can use them for personal means as well. That said, Wiedermann emphasizes that the school will work with students during orientation and afterward to teach them about social media ethics and HIPAA compliance rules, a practice that has been in place even before the decision to add iPads to the curriculum.