Rural Information Connection: An iPad Mini Lending Program to Rural Student Physicians
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Objectives: To determine the value of supplying medical students enrolled in a rural student physician longitudinal curriculum rotation with iPad minis that were pre-loaded with high-quality mobile health apps and to increase access to and awareness of mobile health information resources for clinical care in a rural environment. Methods: Rural student physicians were loaned the iPad mini for a seven-month long rural medicine rotation. A mixed methodology for evaluation included using pre/post surveys and structured learning journal prompts. To analyze the success of this program, pre- and post-surveys were implemented at the beginning and end of the rotation using the validated Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) instrument. The students were asked to participate in structured learning journal prompts sent to them every three weeks during their rural placement allowing the investigators to gain insight of the use of the resources and the iPad device. The structured learning prompts were developed with an action research approach, using previous feedback from the prompts to develop new questions for student feedback. Thematic coding and analysis were carried out by two reviewers to identify resource use, task performance and participant reflection within the structured learning journals (SLJs). Results: Nine students enrolled in the program with five having completed the rotation with the iPad mini to date; two students dropped out and two students are expected to finish in June 2017. The students reported using the device either daily or several times a week. Data gathered using the thematic coding of the SLJs and pre- and post-surveys show a consistent use of the device on the rural rotation for accessing information, answering clinical questions, sharing information with their rural preceptor, and studying for examinations. The resources or clinical information tools reported by the students prior to the rural rotation were used during the rotation and several students reported exploration and adoption of new evidence-based information resources. Participants also described several opinions on the implementing of the program within the rural environment, which allowed the investigators to modify the program for new participants. Conclusion: The assessment informed the researchers by showing the information-seeking behavior in a rural environment and acceptance of new technology into the participants’ workflow. With use of the iPad minis and resources, students were able to access essential clinical information and test prep material, adding to their educational experience within their rural student physician training.