E-readers in Medical Education

Found an interesting article on the use of e-readers in medical education, the Kindle. The Kindle was used by medical students during family medicine clerkship and by family medicine clerkship preceptors. The e-reader was loaded with medical textbooks and other relevant material such as guidelines. The hypotheses was that the information demand during education and working in a clinical setting would favor the use of e-readers. After usage of the devices the students and preceptors were send a link to an online anonymous survey asking them to rate the use of the e-reader in terms of relevance of content, usability, efficiency and appropriateness in various settings. In this group the e-reader was not recommended for direct patient care, mostly due to it’s lack of speed. It was recommended for use in educational settings. Unfortunately the research didn’t compare it to another device or online searching. The iPad was not available in that period. As with all devices, the Kindle might be considered old fashioned especially when it comes to speed and searching.

In another trial the Kindle was tested with fourth year medical students and residents. The Kindles were loaded with relevant medical textbooks. The students and residents were asked to compare the print, online and e-reader versions of the textbooks. The students preferred the computers available throughout the hospital instead of the e-reader in clinical settings. The residents preferred online resources to find clinical answers, not the e-reader.

Participants from both studies rated the selected e-reader as highly portable, overcoming accessibility issues that might arise in clinical settings, but users found limitations in the e-reader’s navigation, lack of color display, and speed. The e-reader processor and wireless connection were slow for use in direct patient care settings, especially when networked computers were available. In the clinical setting, computers were easier to use and faster than the e-reader for answering patient care questions, and participants from both studies reported preferring computer based online resources to those on the e-reader.

In short, e-readers are of limited use in clinical settings. The e-reader is of use in medical education such as reading in guidelines or textbooks in preparing for or after seeing a patient.
Shurtz, S., & von Isenburg, M. (2011). Exploring e-readers to support clinical medical education: two case studies Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 99 (2), 110-117 DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.99.2.002