iPad®, Notebook, Laptop, Netbook: What's Best for Doctors?

Neil Versel


April 19, 2012

In This Article


More than 30% of US doctors now own an iPad® -- not just any touch-screen tablet, but the iconic Apple product specifically -- and some have speculated that the rate could be approaching 50%. Apple has said that more than 80% of the top hospitals in the United States are using iPads (although the company doesn't define "top hospitals").

Yet, with the variety of laptop-sized electronics and their diverse features and capabilities, many doctors have a tough time deciding which to choose. These portable devices are becoming increasingly desirable and necessary in medical care.

Below is a quick overview of these devices:

• Laptop: A catch-all term for a portable computer than can run on battery power. Usually used interchangeably with the term "notebook."

• PC tablet: A full-powered computer that is meant to be carried like a clipboard, but has a keyboard that pivots so that the computer can be used like a laptop. This kind of tablet, which has been around for about a decade, usually has a touch screen and sometimes has a removable keyboard.

• Multimedia tablet: A thin, touch-screen computer that lacks a keyboard and mouse. It is usually less powerful but more mobile than a personal computer, and it runs an operating system more similar to that of a smartphone than a PC. Apple's iPad falls into this category.

• Netbook: A lightweight, inexpensive computer with a keyboard and mouse. The limited computing power and smaller storage capacity of these devices means that netbooks often rely on the Internet to power software applications and "cloud" storage. Netbooks tend to be smaller and less powerful than full-fledged laptops.

Still, the tablet revolution is very much in its infancy. It may seem hard to believe, but the first iPad only became available in stores in April 2010. And the iPad is not a perfect device for healthcare by any stretch of the imagination. A February report from Spyglass Consulting Group, Menlo Park, California, indicated that 80% of US physicians think the iPad has a "promising future in healthcare," but most do not believe that it is "ready to transform patient care delivery today."

A recent forecast from computer chip-maker Intel and research firm IDC Health Insights says the US market for mobile point-of-care technology would grow by an annual rate of 9.9%, from just shy of $2.8 billion in 2010 to more than $4.4 billion in 2015.

The report estimates that traditional PCs will remain the most popular form of portable computing for some time. "Healthcare providers will continue to invest in laptop and PC tablet devices and, to a certain extent, [workstations on wheels] over the next three years. However, increasingly, they are investing in smartphones and media-rich tablets to round out their mobile device portfolio," the Spyglass Consulting Group report says.

iPads fall into the category of "media-rich tablets," while "PC tablet devices" are generally larger, heavier "convertible" computers that are full-powered Windows PCs with touch screens and removable keyboards.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.