They're not the typical tablets prescribed by doctors, but iPads are making their way to the Ottawa Hospital to replace traditional paper medical charts.

The hospital recently ordered 1,800 of the popular devices by Apple, in addition to 500 already being used by health-care providers.

Staff are saying the shift to using iPads to store data electronically is putting the health facility at the forefront of North American hospitals, allowing doctors to examine X-rays, make notes and prescribe treatments while taking the X-rays along with them during patient consultations.

"If I was at the bedside with you, I'd be able to talk about your results," said Dr. Glen Geiger, who now cuts down on time and massive amounts of paperwork.

Illegible notes a thing of the past

All relevant patient information — medical histories, injury reports and allergies – can be carried in one pocket of his white coat.

For Geiger, the advantages are clear.

"I'd say what we're going to do next. We'd discuss if you'd agree to the treatment plan, we'd order the treatment plan right then and there while we're talking to you, instead of saying, 'Let me go down the hall and order that treatment in a few minutes,'" he said.

"You go see the patient, you do things, you're done."

It would also hopefully eliminate any problems associated with trying to decipher possibly messy hand-written doctor notes.

1,800 iPads in doctors' hands by July

Dale Potter proposed the iPad plan at Ottawa Hospital. The products retail for around $400-600 each, but Potter said the tablets will offset costs by replacing outdated equipment, increasing productivity and reducing errors.

"Paper orders that are handwritten — 15 or 20 per cent of those are missing information, or are illegible, and require human intervention," he said. "It also saves on that cost."

Potter added that security measures are in place to ensure that confidential patient records will not be compromised. No information would be stored locally, so even if one of the devices were stolen, the patient information would still be kept secure.

Ottawa Hospital said that all of the new iPads will have arrived by July for use by physicians, resident physicians and pharmacists.