News and Events

There’s an App for That? Students Pilot Use of iPads in Main Clinic to Enhance Patient Communication and Education

September  19, 2011

A new pilot project at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry has brought iPads into the school's Main Clinic. Students are using iPads equipped with a special application that gives them a new way to communicate with patients, discuss oral health topics and dental procedures, and educate patients about the health of their mouths.

Since spring quarter 2011, Class of 2013 dental students have been working with various forms of digital technology to practice patient communication skills. In a preclinical setting this spring, students conducted practice interactions with patients while being filmed with Flip video cameras, and faculty provided feedback and communication coaching. Now that the Class of 2013 has transitioned into clinic, students are utilizing the communication skills they previously learned to conduct more effective and positive interactions with patients - with the help of an iPad.

In clinic, the students use iPads equipped with the DDS General Practitioner application. The app allows students to easily show photos, diagrams and animated images of common oral conditions and dental procedures. It also allows students to present clinical findings, prevention recommendations and hypothetical treatment plan options.

"This project has enhanced the student's ability to impart prevention and treatment plan options, and has fostered better patient communication," said Chris Miller, director of community programs, co-director of the Pacific Center for Special Care and one of the pilot project's faculty leaders. "Already students using the iPads have been witness to the impact a strong visual aid can have on their patients."

The innovative pilot project was spearheaded by Miller along with Maria Murtagh, director of the Student Store; and Raybel Ramos, director of the Information Technology Department. Together, and with the support of students and numerous faculty and staff colleagues, they have been able to bring consumer technology in a clinic and preclinical setting. Funds used to purchase the iPads came from a generous donation from a school supporter, Louisa Galdieri. Pending a successful pilot year, the program will be looking for other sources of funding to continue and expand the use of iPads in the clinic.

"One of the Dugoni School of Dentistry's goals is to harness technology to maximize learning," said Miller. "Bringing iPads into our clinic is doing just that."

As part of the pilot project, additional protocols for the use of iPads in the clinical setting will be rolled out in the first weeks of Autumn quarter.

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