Healthcare report: iPads ‘should not’ be used for clinical diagnosis

March 5, 2012

Dr Mark McEntee, from the University of Sydney, presented the study at the International Society for Optical Engineering medical imaging conference in San Diego recently, and opened by saying that touchscreen tablets are just as good as standard LCD monitors for viewing medical images. However, McEntee added that both form factors are only suitable as “secondary” displays, and should only be used when high-resolution radiology monitors are not available.

“iPads and other secondary screens should not be used for clinical diagnosis,” said McEntee, when speaking to Australian publication eHealthspace.org. “There is a range of safety concerns associated with using mobile screens.”

McEntee revealed that eight U.S board-certified radiologists attempted to identify intracranial bleeding, fractures and lung nodules from X-rays and other scans, using high-resolution medical monitors, iPads and standard LCD monitors. The doctor confirmed that the hi-res medical monitors offered “just noticeable differences” in medical images over the iPads and standard LCD displays.

So, what are the differences in terms of screen resolution? The University of Sydney reports states that primary radiology displays have a resolution of 508 to 750 dots per inch (dpi), which is significantly richer than the 130 ppi offered by iPads and most standard desktop monitors. The report goes onto say that these medical monitors also tend to be brighter.

The good news for the iPad is that McEntee found the tablet to be just as good as a standard LCD monitor for viewing medical images, and clearly more practical for diagnosis when walking between wards.

“In the past, doctors would do their rounds in the wards, returning to a desktop computer to view images. Now they can do it at the bedside with an iPad or other tablet computer.

“When no primary display device exists, diagnoses can be carried out on a secondary display device, such as an iPad, but this is only in the most urgent of cases, for example to determine whether a patient is suffering from an intracranial bleed.”

Of course, this view could soon change in future, with Apple's incoming iPad 3 tablet expected to feature a better-than-HD 2048 x 1536 resolution display. At 263 pixels per inch, the iPad 3 display will double the ppi figures for the iPad 1 and 2, but will still fall someway short of the pixel density offered by high-resolution medical monitors.

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