Next month I will have a unique opportunity to influence the design of future devices for clinical computing. Our OEM (original equipment manufacturers) group at Microsoft has invited me to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. My mission? Meet with our OEM partners to talk about trends in clinical computing and help them design the next generation of devices that physicians and other clinicians will use in hospitals, clinics, and also at home.
That’s a pretty tall order. Of course, being as close to the industry as I am, I have lots of my own thoughts about this. I’ve been involved in many such discussions with OEMs in the US and abroad over the years. But I’ve not had an opportunity to meet with so many vendors at one time in one place. That’s why I’m looking forward to CES.
The fact that I am doing this at CES says volumes about how the industry itself is changing. Today, one of the biggest trends in clinical computing is doctors, nurses and other clinicians purchasing consumer devices like ultrabooks, tablets and smartphones and bringing them to work. There is an increasing expectation from these dedicated health professionals that they be allowed to use their personal devices to connect to the enterprise’s network and go about doing their work. This can cause all kinds of headaches for IT staff who must worry about the privacy and security of patient and financial data. Another cause for concern is the possibility that these consumer devices might introduce malware or viruses to the hospital or clinic network. In fact, this is such a hot topic that I’ll be participating in a special webcast on this subject on Wednesday, December 7th. Here is more information about that.
I’ve stated on HealthBlog before that I believe technology has finally matured to the point that robust devices can now be made to meet most of the requirements of clinicians and clinical workflow. You’d have to be living on another planet not to know about the influx of smartphones and slate computers (especially the iPad) into healthcare. Manufacturers can now offer devices with much improved battery life, brilliant displays, light weight, mobile connectivity, and more intuitive user interfaces. Unfortunately, most of the consumer devices currently on the market fail to deliver what clinicians need in other ways. They may not hold up to disinfectants or other cleaners. They often are not rugged enough to withstand sustained clinical use. The displays, while excellent, may not be of sufficient definition to meet requirements for medical images. Consumer devices may be lacking in the input and output ports needed for connectivity to other devices like barcode scanners, pumps, printers, projectors, and digital physiological equipment and monitors. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
I’ve also said before that there really is no such thing as a single device that meets every clinician’s needs. Chances are you will want to use different kinds of devices depending on where you are and what you are doing. Out to dinner with your spouse? You’ll probably want to connect to the data you need on your smartphone. Rounding in the hospital? You’ll likely want something with a bit more real estate on the screen. Doing a history and physical? That means lots of data input so a keyboard, digital ink, or better yet, robust speech recognition is needed. Checking on a patient in the ICU? You may want a 42 inch monitor to survey all that data.
So, recognizing that no single device can meet all your needs, if you had an opportunity to tell device manufacturers what’s missing from todays solutions that you’d like to see in future devices, what would you tell them? Write your ideas in the comments section here on HealthBlog, and I’ll be sure to vet as many of your ideas as possible when I meet with the OEM community at CES next month.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft