Android Tablet Use in Medical School & the Hospital

By Walter Wiggins

Recently, we dedicated two posts (here and here) to our thoughts on iPad use in the hospital and medical school. Given the ever-increasing market share of tablets that run on the Android OS, it makes sense to address Android tablet use in these settings, as well.

For preclinical medical students, there is very little apparent difference between the potential utility of an Android tablet versus the iPad. The App Store and Android Market offer a similar selection of e-textbooks and apps for note taking, organization, making flashcards, and studying medical sciences. Budget-wise, there are a number of Android tablets on the market at a more affordable price-point (starting around $200) than the iPad ($499+). The primary potential downside of owning an Android tablet, as opposed to an iPad, arises when it comes time to hit the wards.

In the past two years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the relative advantages of the two operating systems for enterprise development, particularly in the hospital setting. For articles that focus more on this side of the debate, please see the links at the end of this post.

What I’ll say here is that the openness of the Android development platform presents a considerable security risk that requires significantly greater IT infrastructure to overcome. iOS is simply not as vulnerable and has built-in tools (such as remote data wiping) and security measures that already meet government standards for data security in the healthcare setting. Furthermore, there is an abundance of data support the use of iPads in healthcare, whereas very little (if any) data exists on Android devices. As a result, hospital administrators may be reluctant to support Android devices for clinical use (i.e. mobile EMR access).

In the end, the clinical utility of your tablet (whether it runs Android or iOS) in the hospital setting will largely depend on the level of support your IT department offers for these devices. To be fair, a handful of institutions are designing their own Android OS for distribution with custom apps that tightly control security and access.

Even if your hospital does not support Android tablets for EMR access, these devices could still be useful in the hospital, particularly if you are a medical student. Tablets provide quick access to the Internet, allowing you to look up information on a patient’s condition without the need to find an open workstation on a busy service. Additionally, smaller Android tablets obviate the need to find a suitable carrying case or sew a larger pocket into your white coat.

So, what’s your take on the Android vs. iPad debate?


Two iMedicalApps bloggers debating the relative advantages/disadvantages of Android vs. iOS/iPad



KevinMD’s take on the debate:



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