Why the iPad is a revolutionary device

Ipad I usually blog about religion and Israeli politics.  But I’ve been playing with a new piece of technology that is such a “game-changer” I couldn’t resist writing something about it.

Like many Israelis, I’m a “news junkie.”  I get three newspapers every day, the International Herald Tribune (global edition of the NY Times), Haaretz (Israel’s leading “left of center” English language paper) and the Jerusalem Post (Israel’s leading “right of center” English language paper).  I get news online, and I listen to the news on the radio.

I like reading the paper at breakfast.  For a few years I have felt like I’m a “Neanderthal” who will be one of the last people to refuse to give up all that paper and receive all my news strictly electronically.  When I travel, I’ve had occasions when I tried to read the news off of my laptop while munching a bagel, and I have to say the experience really didn’t work for me at all.

Guess what?  I’m a Neanderthal no more.

I actually PREFER reading the news on an iPad to reading the newspaper.

When using an iPad ap like the NY Times ap, reading on the iPad is no harder on the eyes than reading the paper – AND it’s actually easier to turn the pages, see the articles you are interested in, and the pictures are in color.  It takes up a lot less room on the table.  And if you want you can watch video stories as well.  It’s amazing.

It’s important to note that the difference between getting it “almost right” and “getting it right” is HUGE.  I wouldn’t switch for “almost right.”  It needs to be “right.”  And the iPad gets it right, but only when using “aps.”

With the NY Times ap, reading the paper is a breeze: the page is laid out for the iPad, navigation is simple and intuitive, and response is INSTANT.  Touch an article, and you see it immediately.  By contrast, trying to read the Jerusalem Post on the iPad using the web browser is much different, and much less satisfying experience.  The page isn’t optimized for the iPad and it’s much slower.

According to an article in The Guardian, media mogul “Rupert Murdoch has lavished praise on Apple's iPad, describing the device as a "game changer" for news media and predicting that "hundreds and hundreds of millions" of similar tablet computers will eventually be sold around the world” (click here to see the article).  Before trying it for myself, I would have been skeptical.  Now that I’ve tried it, I’m a believer.  Murdoch is right.

Professionally, my interest is in medical applications for the publishing industry.  That’s the reason my company was nice enough to buy an iPad for me to play with.  And I believe the iPad is going to be as big a game changer for medical information technology as it will be for publishing in general.

Here in Israel where we have socialized medicine, doctors have been forced to go to Electronic Health Records (EHR) whether they like it or not.  So when you go visit your doctor he spends half his time sitting at his computer with his back to you tapping away at the computer, pulling up your records, recording what he did with you, etc.  As a patient, it’s not so nice.  I’m sure it’s less nice for the doctor, and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons many physicians in the US have been slow to adopt EHR, and when they adopt them, they certainly don’t have doctors sitting there entering info, they leave the clerical stuff to staff.

With the iPad, I believe doctors will embrace the use of technology.  It will make their job easier, and enable them to do a better job.  And you can access all this cool stuff with a device the size of a clipboard, and you don’t have to type a thing to find information you are looking for.  One survey found one in five physicians already plan to buy an iPad. 

In an article in Emergency Physician’s Monthly Dr Nicholas Genes asks “Can the iPad change the way we work in the emergency department?”  His answer? “But I expect emergency physicians will someday be able to wander through their department, moving patient to patient, with a tablet like the iPad tucked under their arms. During encounters, we’ll use iPads to tap on elements of the history or exam in, and enter orders – all very quickly at the bedside. These tablets will help us go over images and lab results with patients, and let us review diagnoses and instructions. In short, I think the iPad can liberate doctors from the desk-based tyranny of ED information systems and the shortcomings of the paper chart.”

In a couple of hours, I was able to download a bunch of fascinating free medical applications for the iPad that do everything from checking for drug interactions, to doing medical calculations, assisting with diagnosis, searching the medical literature, and providing up to date news in the specialty of your choice.  The stuff you pay for, naturally, has even more capabilities.  The ability to retrieve exactly what the physician wants out of a patient’s medical record, instantly, without having to sit in front of a computer and type on a keyboard and play with a mouse will, I believe, be pretty compelling.

On the personal side, the aps are equally interesting.  I had toyed with getting an eBook reader like a Kindle: I travel a lot, and I figured a Kindle would be lighter than a stack of books.  The iPad of course is also an eBook reader, but calling it an eBook reader is like calling a Maserati a form of transportation.  It is, but it’s bit more than that.  iBooks is a great ap, and if you really like the stuff that’s available on Amazon, there’s an ap that will let you read Kindle format books on the iPad.  One of the cool things is the stuff that’s there for free: I’ve already downloaded an assortment of classics I’ve always intended to read, but never got around to – like Joycey’s Ulysses – from Project Gutenberg, in ePub format ready to read on the iPad, for free.

The free Dragon dictation ap, which lets you dictate emails is a great time saver, and surprisingly accurate.  The Urbanspoon ap will help you find just the right restaurant anywhere in the US.  And as a rabbi, I have of course also found the siddur (prayerbook) and Tanakh (Bible) aps indispensable.

Some “techies” denigrate the iPad (see the NY Times review here).  My oldest daughter used to work for Apple doing tech support on the iPhone, and she joked “yes, and next thing, Apple will come out with a ‘mini iPad…”  Techies point to what’s missing – no USB port, no camera, etc., and are disappointed.  Normal people look at what the device is capable of and go “wow.”  It’s not a laptop, and it’s not a smartphone – I probably won’t be getting rid of either of those devices any time soon.  But it does a lot of things that I never thought I’d be doing on my computer.  Like reading books, and reading the morning paper.

What are the features that make the iPad so cool?

  • It’s the right size – the size of a clipboard
  • It’s super fast
  • The display clarity is amazing
  • It’s intuitive and very easy to use – ‘touch and go’

It’s so simple to use, even my mother is thinking of getting one.  And that’s really saying something, she has never owned a computing device in her life.

 

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

3 thoughts on “Why the iPad is a revolutionary device

  • August 18, 2010 at 11:11 am
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    Kaiser in the USA uses a version of EHR, and as a result has some of the lowest rates of mistakes, and does very well at catching common diseases -better than doctors alone (read a great book about this recently by Atul Gawande). In any case, when the Kaiser doctors check records, they have a flat screen on a very flexible long neck – very little time with their back to the patient. It works quite nicely – and doesn’t require an iPad.

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  • August 19, 2010 at 1:07 am
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    B”H
    Dear Rabbi,

    I found your blog (through Google Alerts) and I really enjoyed to read it. I think you also will not waste your time if you will visit my website http://www.jewishiphonecommunity.org – all jewish iPhone/iPad related stuff that you will be able to read on your brand new iPad – a lot of kosher apps as well.

    Ktiva ve’chatimah tova
    Robert Pass

    Reply
  • August 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm
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    Hi Barry,

    Funny you should post that just this week. I got an iPad in May and – combined with my local French cafe subscribing to the NY Times and putting the physical paper on those really awkward wood spindles – found that I really enjoy the NY Times but not handling those spindles. Then I thought, “hmmm, I wonder if I can read the NY Times on my iPad which I have in my purse?” Well, yes indeedy, I certainly can. The content is so much better than the SF Chronicle or Examiner, and as you said, the interactivity, the small footprint, the ease of navigation – everything is wonderful. Greetings from San Francisco!

    Reply

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