Tablets have jetted to prominence primarily as consumer devices that have crept into business and professional settings through the back door, as consumers bring their latest toys to work. But one of the most effective uses of tablets started in the most professional and sober of settings – a cancer clinic at my alma mater Duke University – before the iPad was ever introduced and with patients who would not fit the profile of a typical tablet user.
Back in 2007, about 20 years after I graduated, doctors at Duke were looking for a more effective way to learn about the progress, symptoms, and overall health and well being of cancer patients. Building off work done by a group of community cancer doctors in Memphis, the Duke clinicians realized that tablets could help gather more complete patient information, facilitate follow up and match educational programs to specific patient concerns.
Now, each time patients visit a Duke Oncology clinic, they answer a series of 88 questions on tablet computers in the waiting room. Between visits, they regularly make similar observations on a secure online site. This online questionnaire is meant to supplement traditional face-to-face doctor-patient consultations.
What Duke has said is that the information generated on the tablets was often more accurate and comprehensive than what doctors glean in the consultation room. Three-quarters of breast-cancer patients reported that they were able to remember their symptoms more accurately, and one-third of them said the online questionnaire prompted them to bring up issues with their doctors.
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