Is the Tablet the New Face of Healthcare IT?

February 24, 2011

I didn't even know I wanted one, let alone needed one, but Steve Jobs and Apple persuaded me otherwise.

The iPad. The tool that promises to revolutionize, among others, the publishing industry.

What about the healthcare industry?  Are doctors on board with this new tool that can transform how they interact with their patients and how they document their history?

As an organization that serves physicians and their families, we monitor how physicians leverage new technology in their personal and professional lives. Oftentimes, those two worlds blur. That’s where the Apple (and the iPad) and other tablet manufacturers have made headway, simplifying lives and attempting to help us be more efficient in all that we do. The American Medical News recently highlighted physician usage of iPad and tablet technology, and I found some notable facts along the way:

Do You iPad?

There’s a boom in the tablet industry with many competitors, including the Android-based system that is available on several products. The one device that energized the market is the iPad. Via a recent study by BoxTone Mobile Service Management and HIMSS, American Medical News presented us with
some great data points

  • 25% plan to use an iPad immediately
  • 70% plan to use an iPad within a year

 Source: BoxTone Mobile Service Management and HIMSS survey, October 2010

Those numbers are impressive but not surprising, given the technical aptitude of physicians.

The Transition to the iPad

One of the facts that is highlighted throughout the article is the iPad’s ease of use. Patient history and notes are rooted in a paper-based system that allows for quick notes, ease of review and portability. The iPad (and other tablets) replicate this ease of use and makes the transition fairly seamless. Rather than carry around charts and folders, much of the data can be accessed via EMR’s accessed on the iPad. It doesn’t require the physician to carry additional materials, just a single device of similar size and weight conveying the feeling of having charts in hand. Portability at it’s finest.

Patient Interaction Improved with the iPad

One of the concerns noted by physicians is the role of technology and how it impacts the patient/physician relationship. Steven K. Libutti, MD, a surgeon and oncologist who is director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York, stated, “The iPad brings you back to the patient’s bedside.” It allows the physician to consult with the patient more efficiently in the exam room. It reduces the need to leave the room to get charts, x-rays/drawings or even medication lists and allows the focus to remain on the patient, uninterrupted.

Equally important, tablet technology makes doctors’ rounds more efficient. Mobility is now carrying a compact tablet during rounds or in the exam room, not wheeling around a computer to access patient data.

The Rules Still Apply

This technology changes the way patients access data, but not the way we treat and manage the data. The same security requirements apply as tablet usage continues to grow. The projected usage is 45 million new tablets in 2011, more than two times the amount in 2010. The devices and infrastructure adopted by the healthcare systems will require data encryption, secure usernames/passwords, proper levels of authority and compliance with HIPPA and similar regulatory requirements. It’s not an obstacle to adopt such technology, but an issue to be considered in protecting the patients and physicians’ treatment practices.

The iPad and similar tablets have powerful capabilities. They altered the way I digest my digital content and find myself curious as to how it evolves in the healthcare workplace. Take a look at the article for yourself and email me your thoughts.


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