Insights September 2010


Neil Seeman


My iPad celebrates my second honeymoon with Apple. My brothers and I bought an Apple 2 in 1979. I was jamming on a home-made joystick and playing Space Invaders – the invaders looked like falling sponges made out of squiggly lines – when my Mom came home on March 30th, 1981 to tell me that Ronald Reagan had been shot.

In adulthood I shunned the Apple. I’ve never been an iPhone guy. I admire Steve Jobs but I’m not part of the iPhone tribe. When I bought my Blackberry, I asked the salesman if anybody ever bought an iPhone and returned it. He said, “Yup. Twice a week. And they’re all like you.” “What does that mean?” I asked. “I know guys like you. You want to email and book appointments – maybe you’ll do some GPS stuff – but you’re not a gamer. You’re a serious dude.”

Serious dude or no, he was right about one thing: I don’t like to use toys (which I consider the iPhone to be) when I’m working. So when the iPad came along I was leery. Wary of the hype, I thought about what I’d use the iPad for: information consumption, as opposed to creation. I got a tutorial from a friend, dropped into the iPhone store…and fell in love with Apple all over again.

Love is a lot like an invention: it makes the seemingly impossible possible. When it comes to the iPad, I’ve been dazzled; it is a game-changer for self-education. I call this iPadagogy. And since self-education and self-motivation about healthy eating and living habits are essential to easing the burden of chronic illness, it’s worthwhile to consider how the iPad improves human health.

First, let me explain the concept of iPadagogy. My five and a half-year-old son came home from singing his first French song. He was frustrated because he couldn’t remember the lyrics. I divined he was singing something like, “a pied, sa usa”. So I cruised to Google, typed in “chanson,” “a pied” and “enfant” and found, “Un kilomètre a pied, ça use, ça use ...”. On Youtube, a frog, a chipmunk and a dog sing it. Apparently because the French letter “u” is one of the two most difficult sounds in French for most English speakers (R is the other one), learning to sing the following lines early in life is a successful pedagogic technique:
“Un kilomètre à pied ça use ça use
Un kilomètre à pied ça use les souliers”

But here’s the zinger: because of the iPad’s portability and strong bold colour graphics, I could figure this all out and play the video in one minute during breakfast. We could even pause the song, prop the iPad upright on the piano and test the musical notes.

OK, you can do all this using other gadgets but the process is not as swift, easy or as beautiful. The iPad is a game-changer because it makes the consumption of information that is relevant to you more elegant and organized and instant. Courtesy of the free Flipboard application on the iPad, I enjoy personalized news that feeds me tweets from editors of the BBC, the Economist, Wired and the New York Times. (Post-iPad, the New York Times announced it will stop printing newspapers and focus efforts on a real-time news service it will soon release,

For healthcare, real-time information applications will have a powerful impact for self-learning. Chilmark Research predicted the iPad’s impact will be strong in medical student and patient education. And online expert buzz hints at huge benefits of the iPad for health IT.

Imagine the new virtual consultation: Your patient chart syncs with an elegant summary of information you are consuming and which you consider relevant to your chronic illness. If you’re worried about a newly reported side effect for a medication you’re taking, your doctor will know this in between appointments, and, in keeping with the spirit of informed consent, will counsel you electronically about the evolving evidence concerning your medication.

“We are now at a place,” writes Steve Woodruff, “where the convergence of form factor, power, connectivity, affordability, and functionality argue for widespread adoption. An iPhone screen is pretty small. A laptop is inconvenient. An iPad which can be used for data lookup, data entry, point-of-need multimedia education and reference, and access to electronic health records – what’s not to like?”

Thanks to iPadagogy, the pace of change in healthcare just sloped upward.

About the Author(s)

Neil Seeman is Director of the Health Strategy Innovation Cell at Massey College.


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