According to information provided to Congress in its annual report, the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT says that nearly 75 percent of US physicians have adopted an electronic health record. However, only 40 percent of those docs are using an EHR with advanced functionalities.
I’ve commented many times before on this blog that I believe data input is perhaps the last barrier to more widespread adoption of electronic record systems in clinical medicine. Having addressed most other limiting factors like portability, connectivity, computing power, broadband availability and other things demanded by clinical workflow, it is data input that still challenges many clinicians. Healthcare is a data intensive business. Doctors and nurses need computing solutions that adapt to their unique preferences for data entry.
So here’s why I believe the newest generation of Windows 8 tablet computers and other devices really hit the mark when it comes to data entry. As they used to say in that burger chain ad—“have it your way”. I’ll use my new Microsoft Surface Pro device running Windows 8 as my example.
Keyboard—Whether you use an attachable keyboard like the Touch or Type Cover Keyboard, a compact Bluetooth keyboard, or a full sized office keyboard, your Windows 8 Surface Pro device gives you all the options. Personally, I like the Type Cover best because it feels more like a regular keyboard. However, with just a little experience under your belt you may find that the sleeker Touch Cover becomes your personal favorite.
Stylus—With Microsoft Surface Pro you can use a stylus for screen navigation and data entry. The stylus can be used like a mouse. It can also be used for data entry via handwriting recognition that comes standard with the Windows 8 OS. Like most physicians, my handwriting sucks. I am blown away by how accurately the Surface Pro device with Windows 8 “interprets” my chicken scratch an converts it into text. Furthermore, it is extremely easy to make small edits or changes to what I’ve written using the intuitive editing tools.
Voice—I’m surprised how many people don’t know that Windows comes with terrific speech recognition capabilities. Just turn on speech recognition and start talking to your Surface Pro. You will be amazed how accurately it captures and documents the spoken word. With just a little training, you’ll be documenting as fast as you can talk. Of course, for medical terminology you may want to purchase additional speech recognition software that is optimized to recognize medical terminology in your given specialty.
Mouse—For screen navigation there’s nothing much faster than a mouse and you’ll find plenty of options here too. You can use the touch-pad mouse on the Touch or Type Cover Keyboard, or you may want to use a portable Bluetooth mouse like the Microsoft Wedge Mouse. I prefer my Wedge Mouse when I need to do fine screen navigation or very rapid text editing, etc..
Touch—Perhaps the latest and most attractive feature for screen navigation and data entry is touch. Windows 8 and Windows 8 devices have been optimized for touch. Everything you can do with a mouse (and then some) you can now do with your finger or fingers. Combined with the on-screen touch keyboard, data entry on the fly becomes a breeze using nothing more than your Surface Pro.
There’s one more thing I love about using my Surface Pro and that is the growing library of Windows 8 apps for medical professionals. Whether I need a reference app like UpToDate or an app designed to work with my clinic’s or hospital’s electronic medical record system (like Greenway or Allscripts) vendors are working fast to bring the functionality you need to market.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft