With a growing number of physicians adopting tablet PCs for their EMR implementations, EMR vendors and IT manufacturers are looking to build compatible native systems to facilitate user-friendly and efficient EMR execution. From table desktops to thin clients and now the tablet, EMRs have been tried and tested on a variety of hardware, each bringing its own benefits and drawbacks. However, the striking surge in EMR adoption on tablet PCs has made providers sit up and take notice of this remarkably promising technology.
Evolution of Tablets in the EMR Space
The tablet technology has found a significant number of users in the healthcare industry. A survey conducted by Manhattan Research reveals that practitioners are leaning largely towards mobile platforms in order to improve the productivity and quality of care, as well as for efficient EMR implementations. According to the research, it is estimated that around 30% of doctors own an iPad, which is the leader in the tablet PC market today. Supported by increased bandwidths and wireless internet speeds, the tablet is expected to become a popular choice among physicians, who are already displaying considerable interest in EMR adoption on tablets. Tracing this dramatic rise in the adoption of tablet PCs in the healthcare industry, IT companies are working on designing specialized platforms that connect smart devices like tablets and smartphones to EMRs.
Tablets and EMRs
Even though EMRs on wireless tablets are neatly poised to be the next big thing in the healthcare industry, they do have their detractors. Positively, tablets lend EMRs a host of benefits ranging from portability and enhanced patient communication to increased data accessibility and productivity. Physicians who have worked with EMRs on tablet PCs appreciate their connectivity, usability and design benefits. Tablets are small and light, easy to use and can be conveniently carried for patient visits (as opposed to old-world hospital carts carrying the EMRs on king-sized, unhandy desktops). Physicians can access data from hospital systems and complete their charting in real time while working with patients. Notes can be handwritten using tablets and documents can be wirelessly sent for printing directly from the device. Tablet interface also opens up communication channels between the patients and doctors, contributing to better relationships and improved quality of care.
While tablet PCs are serving EMR implementations well by helping physicians devise a seamless and efficient flow of healthcare processes, users have nonetheless identified a number of pain points that need to be addressed for the tablet to deliver a dependable and sure-fire system to support EMRs. Firstly, most tablets are not designed specifically for medical use (though this appears to be changing as tablet marketers have identified compelling potential in the healthcare industry). Physicians may not be comfortable using the touchscreen on tablets that do not have a stylus. This makes the data entry process sluggish and eats into the valuable time doctors can spend interacting with patients. Tablets are also tough to clean and sterilize, and touchscreens don’t work with surgical gloves. Since it is a relatively newer technology, hospital IT infrastructure and wireless networking platforms are often not equipped to support and integrate EMR implementations on the tablet. It is easy to lose your wireless signal in old hospital buildings with limited IT support, and a tablet with dropped wireless is as good as of no use considering that most Medical Solutions for the Tablets today are pretty much web based solutions.
Selecting a Tablet for your EMR
There are a number of factors physicians must consider before investing in a tablet to run their EMR. It is important to ensure that your tablet serves all the primary EMR functions and process requirements. To begin with, your tablet must have a good battery life. It must be easy to operate, user-friendly and durable. Tablets are available in two styles, the slate-style and the convertible-style. The convertible-style has a built-in keyboard and therefore, is heavier as compared to slate-style tablets that do not have a keyboard.
It is always better to go in for specialized tablets that have been specifically designed for medical and EMR use. iPad and Android are introducing a number of features and apps that support a host of certified EMR systems. Samsung is also making custom Android operating system tablets for EMR and medical use. CNET editors list the highest-rated tablets in the market with Apple iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab , Asus Eee Pad Transformer, BlackBerry PlayBook and T-Mobile G-Slate emerging as top contenders. Other models that have become popular with physicians are Motion LE1600 Tablet PC by Motion Computing and Fujitsu ST5000 Tablet PC by Fujitsu. They are both slate-style tablets and range between $2000-$2500. The Toshiba Portege, Acer C200 and IMB Thinkpad are also good convertible-style options.