Tablet PCs in Healthcare: What’s the right device for you?

This week I'm off to Whistler, B.C., for the 18th Annual Disorders of the Spine Conference chaired by Dr. Glenn Rechtine.  On Monday evening I'll provide a keynote presentation on the Future of Computers in Medicine.  Tuesday morning, my colleague Mike Uretz of the EHR Group and I will provide a tutorial on guidelines for selecting and implementing an electronic medical record system.

Meanwhile, this weekend I received an e-mail from someone in the UK asking for information about Tablet PCs in healthcare.  I've written a couple of articles on this topic that can be found in my House Calls series on  The most recent of those can be found here.  The writer noted some frustration because his Tablet didn't come with a medical dictionary add-in to handle spell check and improved digital inking functionality with medical vocabularies.  If you order a Tablet PC, some manufacturers such as HP and Motion offer a "medical pak".  If you plan on using your Tablet in a medical setting, the medical pak will come in handy.  Some Tablets also come with an array microphone that improves speech to text applications without the use of a headphone.  You'll find that the base speech engine that is inherent to Windows and Office does a very fine job with generic English dictation  However, if you want a robust speech to text solution for medical dictation, it will  be necessary to purchase a program that is specifically designed for this purpose. New 3rd and 4th generation Tablets will soon be appearing on the market that are thinner, lighter , smaller, and even more versatile.  Some of these will offer touch screen functionality and longer battery life.

There's really no such thing as a single device that meets the needs of every healthcare worker.  Instead, we emphasize implementing a network infrastructure and applications that will work across an entire range of devices from desktop computers and Tablet PCs to Pocket PC's and Smartphones.  Most clinicians will find themselves using more than one device depending on their work and social setting; office, hospital; automobile, home, etc. 

This is probably the most exciting time ever to be iinvolved in healthcare information technology.  If you are a clinician interested in information technology and how it can be applied to improve patient care, you may wish to explore what is becoming a growing career opportunity for physicians, that of Chief Medical Information Officer.

Stay tuned for more news in coming days and weeks. 

Until next time,

Bill Crounse, M.D.   Healthcare Industry Director   Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences 



Comments (4)
  1. I think that tablet PCs would not work for physicians — their workflow does not fit into that sort of busy work.

    The handheld is the better way to go. The OQO and other such devices are much better to fit into a pocket.

    When I’m doing my work with patients, I’m not interested in "all access" — especially once I know my patient (it is more tweaking at the point).

    That is the sort of work we are doing. Ultimately, all of this technology stuff is useless unless one can create software that actually helps work.

    At this point the EMR is not a platform that helps work — its goal is mainly to help documentation, billing.

    The users do not benefit from the EMR (mostly insurance, patients, administrators). Until this workflow problem is solved the technology is not going to save healthcare.


  2. After my tirade against the computer keyboard, I had it in mind to write about other computer input devices. However, in the case of the tablet PC, Dr. Bill Crounse has already done a good job on the Healthblog here….

  3. hlthblog says:

    Thanks to Anwar the author of the posting on February 22.  I can only emphasize as I did before that there isn’t a single device that meets the needs of all clinicians.  I fully agree with Anwar that we need solutions that minimize "busy work" and maximize the quality, safety and satisfaction of care for those giving and receiving it.  About 20 percent of the U.S. physician population is now using an electronic medical record system of one kind or another.  Many of these docs were early adopters.  I can’t fault my colleagues who’ve held back because they couldn’t afford what was on the market or didn’t like what they saw.  But the time is coming when it won’t be a matter of choice, but a matter of staying in business.  Interestingly enough, most of the physicians coming out of training today can’t imagine anything more inefficient than doing their work with paper and pen.  The tipping point has more than arrived.  The landslide is about to begin.  

    Bill Crounse, M.D.

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