Hospital worker using an iPadSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Hospitals are using iPads to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Mass General has seen a huge drop in the need for PPE since implementing the device.
  • Other hospitals are enabling more meaningful experiences for families.

As the medical community continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, some hospitals are beginning to adopt technological solutions in ways that they had not considered before in order to protect their staff and provide better care for their patients.

A new report from Wired says that many hospitals are using the iPad and iPhone to transform their internal practices. Massachusetts General Hospital, for instance, is seeing a huge decline in the amount of personal protective equipment needed by using iPads to communicate with COVID-19 patients.

"In the three weeks since the system was deployed, Mass General says its use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, has fallen by half, helping the hospital cope with a nationwide shortage. It has also converted longtime opponents of telemedicine in hospitals into fierce advocates of the technology."

Dr. Lee Schwamm, who leads Mass General's Center for TeleHealth, says that COVID-19 patients normally see their caretakers donned in masks, face shields, and gloves and that it can be "a very frightening experience." The iPad, according to Schwamm, has enabled patients to safely see the faces of their nurses and doctors and interact with them in a more human way.

"This digital surge that is preceding the actual COVID-19 patient surge is going to transform health care permanently in the United States ... With the iPad device in place, they get to interact verbally and in a reassuring way with a nurse who they can't touch, but whose facial expressions they can now see."

Dr. Kathleen Jordan, Vice President of Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, says that the iPad has also enabled extended family to see and talk to patients no matter where they are from.

"We were dealing recently with an end-of-life situation and had actually quite a beautiful experience with extended family from multiple locations being able to be present in a virtual way,"

The change is bringing to light how telemedicine can play a major role in the healthcare industry. Juan Estrada, who oversees Virtual Consults Services at Mass General, says that the technology is now being sought after more than he has ever seen.

"Change is difficult in medicine. Historically, telehealth has been an exercise in pushing so that people begin to see how technology can make a difference ... These last three weeks, we are not really pushing. We are being pulled. This huge community of providers is clamoring for these solutions now. It's amazing."