iPads, Mobile Libraries and Medical apps

Oliver Obst asked me to write a guest post for his column of the June issue of the JEAHIL. At first I hesitated because writing – to be honest- is not really my preferred cup of tea.

It takes me too much time and concentration, I tend to write too much on too many topics at once, and I always demand a original quality contribution from myself. During the writing process I keep coming up with new stuff, constantly hesitating between extra information and the levels of detail to include. But then again, how could I refuse Oliver who has put such a determination, originality and efforts into this colums for many years now, on topics that always interest me and many -if not all- other Eahil members.

iPads on Loan : shaking things up

In many things Oliver’s Library is a great example for using new technologies in medical libraries. With his combination of intelligence, logic, his sensitive antenna for user needs and a pragmatic approach in applying new technology, he created over the years a wonderful medical library with a large scale of tools and services for the ZB Med Münster. http://www.uni-muenster.de/ZBMed

Last year he launched their iPad on Loan project and when we (at the Central Medical Library (CMB) of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) http://www.rug.nl/umcg/bibliotheek heard how it was introduced and how well it was received, we wanted to do this too. Oliver agreed immediately without hesitation in sharing his “blueprint” & all the ins- and outs about the project. Here’s another reason NOT to refuse his request. 😉 He also wrote about it in this Journal, https://jeahil.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/ipad-lending-project-first-results.

The Background Info-page on the iPad on Loan-project wiki, http://ipadscmb.pbworks.com tells the story from the beginning, – from buying 6 iPads and collecting Apps via iTunes – to the present day (having 8 iPads available and a waiting list of >80 interested staff members).

Our goal with giving these iPads to staff members in our hospital community, was to:

  1. learn from their experiences with the iPad as a tool that could possibly change workflow in a clinical, research, patient-care or educational setting
  2. learn more about all types of workflow-, communication- & medical Apps
  3. learn to know our users needs even better

The personal touch -the iPads are distributed in personal meetings with the head of the library, Annalies Koelstra- has proven to be very effective, and the word of mouth principle works as an oilslick. The iPad-users have to sign a short contract and agree on doing a short evaluation -again in a personal meet- when bringing the iPad back.

While the ZB Med uses their WissensWiki and a php-based home-made program (Oliver has to teach me one day how to do that!) to document the iPads and the project, I decided to make every installed App go into a Delicious Bookmark http://www.delicious.com/digicmb/ipadcmb

The tool Packrati.us (http://packrati.us/) bookmarks all links in my Tweets directly to the Delicious, including the “IPADCMB” tag. Basically I can use the “tweet this” option from inside iTunes AppStore to do this. Unfortunately I still have to maintain that App-list on our beta-wiki manually.

Meanwhile our activities with the iPads have stirred things up at our hospital a little. It was good to notice that many people from all different departments got into contact to talk about iPad-related topics. From the It-department to the nursing staff, and from policy-makers to researchers, they all came by to discuss the project and some of its consequences. Can we do this really safe without risk of patient-information getting out? Can we organise our IT systems to access critical patient-care tools on the iPads, even from home? Can we use it in teaching, or at the bed-side?

We had teachers come by to do a project on the use of ipads for visually impaired, and a head-nurse to ask for an iPad to “treat” a long-term isolated, very ill patient. With the iPad she could communicate and keep in touch with the outside world, friends and family much better.

We created a manual on how to access the hospitals off-campus solution (using “Citrix”, called Werkplek Op Afstand, WOA).

I can safely say that doing this project the library we got very positive feedback from all over. PR and marketing-wise doing this, even this low-profile project with relatively low costs (just the costs for hardware and the Apps) – has had a high impact. Many people and departments, including IT and Management, is more aware of the possibilities. This week the hospital even lifted the ban on Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com), a very polular file management programm that makes handling files between desktop, laptop, tablets & mobiles dead easy.

In the short future a new emerging challenge will be to compare and explore the river of announced new tablets http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/the-10-hottest-tablets-coming-in-2011/44415

If you have any questions, just contact me, or come by for a visit 🙂
To be continued …


Almost at the same time of the early preparations of the iPad on Loan-project, we started a project with 4th year Hanzehogeschool-students of the Web & Mobile Services program to develop a mobile application for the CMB. Part of this project was doing research into mobile user needs, and the other part was to create a working prototype of a medical library (web)-app.

In the survey (created with Google Docs, Forms) we specifically asked users to leave their email address if they would be interested in an iPad on loan.

That’s how our initial waiting-list got this big. Now -even with 8 iPads- on loan, each for max 2 weeks- the list is still growing due to our library-demo’s on location, in the departments and staff-meeting with the iPad2. The iPad2 is -for library demo’s on Tablets, Workflow, Library & Medical Apps THE best right now, because the complete VGA-out allows us to show the complete screen of the iPad on any beamer with any problems.

Preparation time was too short to present the outcome of the surveys here in detail (we asked both, students ánd staff), maybe a next colums 😉

In January 2011 the prototype was ready and it contains now the most mentioned features of the survey outcomes. Here are the most special ones:

  • We are proud to have a fully integrated PubMed search connected with our linkresolver RUGLinks (SFX) to easily get to our fulltexts. The other search tools included are: UpToDate, Catalogue, AccessMedicine, E-Journals and E-Books
  • Our new LibGuides on Medicine, Dentistry, Human Movement Sciences and Nursing, http://libguides.rug.nl/profile.php?uid=10227
  • Contact section with Olark Chat http://www.olark.com/
  • Available Computers in the Library and the MedicalFacility
  • All our social media links

If you want to see the complete mobile App, have a look at our CMB Netvibes, http://www.netvibes.com/cmb#Mobile or Scan the qr-code with your mobile and go directly to the (web) app!

Please give it a go, and let us know your experiences preferable via the Response Buttons on the App.

The App was created via JQuery http://jquery.com/ and PHP, http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/PHP and is running on a University server. I can manage it via Filezilla, PHPmyadmin and a MySQL database.

More info at our CMBWIKI: http://cmbwiki.pbworks.com/w/page/36068275/Mobile-CMB

Medical Apps & related

To finish this column off, some short mention of related interesting tools:

This article was published in the June issue 2011 of the JEAHIL.

This entry was posted in Emerging challenges. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to iPads, Mobile Libraries and Medical apps

  1. oliver says:

    “I can safely say that doing this project the library we got very positive feedback from all over.” Yep, exactly: iPad on loan is the best idea for library marketing since sliced bread! It’s great to learn that you made the same experiences like us, and exceeded us in terms of market penetration.

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