iPads help hospitals conserve protective gear


Electron microscope image of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Photo: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Hospitals across the country are turning to iPads to aid in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare workers are fiercely advocating for more telemedicine tools like Apple’s tablet, according to a report from Wired that dives into how hospitals from the East Coast to the West Coast are putting iPad on the front-lines of the battle.

As the entire country faces a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, shields, and aprons, Massachusetts General Hospital found its iPad program cut the hospital’s use of PPE in half. The program was launched just three weeks ago, attaching iPads to patients’ beds so that nurses are able to check on them more frequently while reducing contact at the same time.

“People have this idea that remote work is not really for clinicians, and I think this is showing us otherwise,” says Juan Estrada, lead of Virtual Consults Services at Mass General. “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.”

Hospitals rush to adopt remote work solutions

The Harris Health System in Houston, SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco have all put iPads to use as the wave of COVID-19 patients starts to build. Officials at Saint Francis mention that iPads have been useful during end-of-life situations. The hospital has banned outside visitors but has been able to use video conferencing apps like FaceTime to give family members a chance to say goodbye to a loved one.

Using iPads also unlocks a large workforce to contribute to the crisis. Health care workers who are quarantining due to exposure to COVID-19 or because they’re at risk can now see patients remotely. Nurses can connect to doctors viewing remotely from a hospital conference room or from home as they make the rounds with patients.

When nurses check on patients remotely, the iPads also allow for a more personal connection. Because they’re not wearing their face masks and shields during a FaceTime call, patients can see their actual facial expressions, giving them a better human connection.

iPads aren’t the only gadgets joining the fray. Over the last weeks we’ve read stories of hospitals and medical researchers using devices like the Oura smart ring and Whoop fitness band to try to develop a warning system for asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers. There have also been numerous iPhone apps and websites created by different countries to help track the spread of COVID-19, including one created in partnership by Apple and the CDC.