Veterinary Hospitals: To iPad or Not to iPad

One of the top questions we get from veterinary hospitals installing Instinct is “Should we buy tablets (ie, iPads) for our veterinary hospital?”

It's a great question. When we built Instinct, we initially thought tablets were going to be a central focus.

There are a lot of reasons for this. When iPads were introduced in 2010, people in healthcare dreamed of the slick, comfortable interfaces solving many of healthcare’s woes. And Apple, as much a skilled marketing company as a technology one, heavily promoted excitement for iPads in Healthcare.

But over the past decade, the reality of these devices has set in: They can be impractical for doctor and nurse efficiency. Now, when iPads are found in human hospitals, they're more likely for patient use.

We quickly learned the same in advanced veterinary care centers. iPads were universally not desired. And after watching Instinct be used by more than 20,000 veterinary professionals, we've come to agree.

What we’ve found is that many veterinary teams think they want iPads initially, only to abandon them after go-live for more practical devices.

Here are the top things we’ve learned about iPads in veterinary hospitals.

😊 Instinct Runs on iPads (and More)

First things first: We have no skin in this game. Instinct will (and does) work on any device, including iPads!

If you elect to try them, we strongly recommend at least a 12-inch screen size. This is mainly to ensure patient safety and reduce team eye strain. If you choose this route, you should buy the larger (and more expensive) iPad Pro devices.

🤵 iPads Are Expensive… and Overkill

If you’re thinking about trading in your computers for iPads, this is an important point to remember. iPads (especially the business-quality ones you’ll need) can be expensive and over-engineered for most veterinary settings. I’d equate getting them to buying a Rolls-Royce as your animal or lab transport vehicle.

Who does that?

iPads are great as point of sale devices. They’re also great for consuming media, hosting video calls with family members, casually surfing the web, recording videos, and playing games.

When you buy an iPad for the veterinary hospital, you’re essentially paying for all that functionality—which your team will never use.

💫 Chaos and iPads Don’t Mix Well

Durability is another issue with iPads. They break if dropped, don’t clean easily, and require expensive/proprietary input devices.

Because of this, they necessitate thick cases to protect them—so thick that they’ll be the size of a laptop anyway!

⌨ High-Quality Record Keeping

High-quality medicine involves high-quality documenting. And, as everyone who practices in a modern veterinary center knows, that means a lot of typing.

And typing on screen for volumes of medical text, day after day, shift after shift, is just plain frustrating.

Sure, you could get a keyboard attachment for iPads, which is what most hospitals who get them end up doing. But that begs the question: why get an expensive iPad in the first place?

Dictation software can help, but imagine trying to dictate every 5 minutes when standing in the busy ICU with dogs barking and people yelling.

⚡ Performance and IT Security

All technology needs to get updated over time. But because of the high up-front investment in iPads, most hospitals won’t be replacing them every few years. Instead, you’ll be stuck with old technology.

iPads tend to slow down over time. Don’t believe me? Pull out your old iPad from 2015 and try to multitask with a modern, data-rich application like Instinct.

Among the other concerns you’ll face:

  • iPads are easily misplaced and tend to be theft magnets
  • You often can't run other hospital software on them
  • Most use proprietary chargers
  • They can’t be plugged into ethernet if Wifi is spotty
  • They’re difficult to disinfect
  • Their operating system is difficult to properly control and troubleshoot

💡 There Are Better Options!

So if not iPads, what? Thankfully, the rest of the device world caught up to the simple usability of iPads in the past few years.  

There are a few strategies we’ve seen succeed at both human and veterinary centers where devices are used at the point of care:

  • Start with veterinary practice software that is easy to use on any device. (Bias alert!)
  • Make sure you have a plethora of devices. Too few devices is the main failure point for hospitals that are going digital. We always recommend starting with a ratio of 1 device per doctor, and 1.5 devices per nurse (these are on-shift numbers).
  • Get rolling carts for laptops to park cage-side. This is a favorite strategy of Instinct hospitals. Many of the cart options you’ll find are cheap and small.
  • Look into Google Chromebooks. They’re cheaper than iPads and more durable, and many provide a touch interface.
  • Look into laptops that flip and become a tablet (think Lenova Yoga or Microsoft Surface). They are cheaper, offer better performance, and provide both a keyboard and touch/tablet mode.
  • Get insurance on your point-of-care devices. It’s cheaper than you think and then you can encourage your team to take them in the cage without concern!
  • Make sure to check with your software provider on hardware spec guidelines before purchasing any device.

So should you get iPads for your team? In most cases, we'd say no. You don’t need them for Instinct. And we’ve seen many go against this advice, only to regret it later.

The bottom line? It’s not 2010 anymore. There are now much more affordable, efficient, durable, high-performing, typing-friendly, and easily controllable devices for your team to accomplish your goals.

Whatever you end up choosing, we hope this helps!

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