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iPad Apps Help Inpatients Bridge Information Gaps


A study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that giving hospitalized patients iPads with basic information about their care helped them engage more with physicians.

The patient portal application helped inpatients remember their doctors’ names, the study noted, but had no statistically significant impact on patients’ ability to remember scheduled procedures or active medications.

Hospitalist and lead author Kevin O’Leary, MD, MS, SFHM, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago says the portals can be a way to improve the discharge process.

“We know that patients have a fairly poor comprehension of their care during hospitalization, which doesn’t set them up to do well after discharge,” says Dr. O’Leary, who has studied the potential of portals. “This patient portal has the opportunity to fill in the gaps.”

Although the study didn’t address qualitative issues around why patients didn’t have better recall of information about tests, procedures, or active medications, Dr. O’Leary says future work will address how to tweak portals to improve their efficacy.

“Our study had limited information purposely to just test the concept,” Dr. O’Leary says. “I predict that 10 years from now, this is going to be commonplace. Even five years from now, many hospitals will be offering portal access to inpatients.”

Dr. O’Leary says he believes that using the increasingly ubiquitous technology of smartphones and tablet computers to engage patients creates greater transparency, which could result in better retention of care instructions.

“You’re giving ownership to the patient over information, and it’s much earlier than right at discharge and then a phone call after discharge,” Dr. O’Leary adds. “Why not begin to educate the patient about their condition and their medications from the very first minute of their admission? And give them access to that information and have them identify their own needs and knowledge deficits?”

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