Are Tablet Computers a Boon for Physicians?

With the launch of the Apple iPad2, a shot has been fired across the bow of other manufacturers to keep up with the market leader. As the incumbent leader, the success of the iPad has been felt both by consumers and industry alike. But Apple is not alone, with many other vendors selling tablets including HP, RIM, Samsung, and Motorola. The early verdict for physicians and other clinical users appears to be strongly in favor of the tablet form factor for healthcare.

At the launch of the iPad2, Dr. John Halamka, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO described how physicians in his facility are using iPads at the point of care to interact with patients. mHealth (or mobile health) conferences and interest in mobile applications is growing very rapidly. One has to wonder what the future mobile tablet technologies will enable.

On the one hand, having a wireless or 4G connected tablet device with anywhere access to the Internet is very attractive. The ability to run an EHR directly off a tablet using a browser and touch or pen type input makes good sense for certain types of encounters. Using templates or pick lists are also easy in a device with this form factor. However there is also an ideal size that lends itself to specific functions. The 9.7″ display of the iPad makes it very effective for reading documents and managing larger amounts of information. Samsung’s Galaxy tablet has a 7″ diagonal screen and a form factor that fits more easily into a lab coat pocket, but as a result is more limited in terms of dense information. Samsung is preparing the launch of their Galaxy 2 tablet which is anticipated to more closely approximate the size of the iPad2. The HP Slate 500 falls somewhere in between the the Samsung and Apple devices with a diagonal screen size of 8.9″.

As devices get smaller and closer to the size of a smart phone, rather than EHR access tools, it is my belief that they become much better for specialized functions. Apps for everything from clinical calculators to specialized data collection and decision making tools.

Is the mobile tablet-based EHR of the future a very simple user interface with a wide range of apps, each designed for a specific purpose? With secure connectivity, data entered through apps could be published to the EHR, but would not preclude using a different form factor in the exam room – such as a laptop or desktop computer.

What are your thoughts? Do you use a tablet now for clinical purposes? Do you see yourself using a tablet in the future? Click on the ‘Comments’ link below.

This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.


One response to "Are Tablet Computers a Boon for Physicians?"
  • March 18, 2011
    Daniel Vance

    I’m an interist, used a Palm for many years, now use iPhone for a number of med apps, including eRx. I have an iPad but not EHR, so I haven’t used it clinically yet. I’d love to have a “pick-list” app to quickly make coustomized instrustions to print and give to patients at time of visits, but haven’t found one yet, does anyone know of useful iPad med apps?

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