Going Green and Digital: iPads for All at Yale School of Medicine

Building upon its reputation for innovation in medical education, Yale School of Medicine is giving each of its students an Apple iPad 2 this school year for use in the classroom and clinical training. This initiative will provide first- through fourth-year medical students with complete digital access to all course materials, including slides. Paper-based course materials will be eliminated.

The entire preclinical curriculum will be loaded onto the iPad for first- and second-year medical students. For third- and fourth-year students, materials will be downloaded according to their individual concentrations. Students will be provided apps that enable them to highlight or annotate curricular materials; in addition, updates and revisions to lectures can be immediately synced to the iPad. Each student will also receive a Bluetooth wireless keyboard.

A unique feature of the Yale initiative is that third- and fourth-year medical students will be able to use their iPads to manage Electronic Protected Health Information related to their clinical responsibilities.

Yale's iPad initiative started as a way to improve curriculum, reduce expenses and save paper. "We recognized that we were spending a lot of money on curriculum materials that our students were not always using and that the format of the materials was not the most conducive for learning," says Michael Schwartz, assistant dean for curriculum at Yale School of Medicine. "We had a lot of of paper that had to be recycled, which was expensive and not very green, so we started wondering if there was a better way to do this."

The solution was the iPad. In addition to saving money and paper, Schwartz says, the iPad's high-resolution touchscreen adds a "vibrant new dimension" to the student learning experience. "Up until this point we'd given students the entire curriculum on black-and-white copy paper. On the iPad, all those images are still there — but in the appropriate colors. This is especially great for courses like anatomy, pathology, and histology, and for examining histological tissue slices and images generated in MRI, CT and other diagnostic imaging modalities."

Computer security has been a particular concern for the School of Medicine because of the need to safeguard confidential patient records. The iPad, Schwartz says, perfectly meets these needs because security is built into its mobile operating system. "The beauty of it is, we didn't have to do anything special. The iPad is by design secure and encryptable." He adds that the iPad is compliant with security and privacy laws and does not carry the same risk of information loss that a laptop might.

The School of Medicine hopes the iPad will give its students a unique educational experience. "The iPad gives our students a very special way to engage the curriculum. It is a platform they are comfortable with and excited about," says Richard Belitsky, deputy dean of education for Yale School of Medicine. "Importantly, it helps meet our goal to provide an educational experience that fits their learning styles and continuously evolves to meet their needs."

The cost for each iPad 2 (64 GB WiFi/3G capable) plus keyboard and apps is approximately $900, slightly less than what the school was spending for each student for paper curriculum materials in the first two years alone. But since the iPad will be used through all four years of a student's medical education, the school expects to enjoy long-term savings in the delivery of curricular materials, as it supports the University's policy of sustainable practices.