Putting Windows 8 Tablets to work in healthcare – a buyer’s guide

There is a slew of shiny new tablets on the market, many of which are crammed with enough features to make life on the wards easier for heavy users, and all of which will look gorgeous under your arm. At the pricier end of the market, for example, is the Sony Vaio Duo 11, which features a nifty sliding mechanism to flip between tablet mode and a full laptop-style keyboard. It also includes a stylus for scribbling and sketching (by all means draw with your finger too...) and a chunky Intel Core i7 processor to keep up with the most demanding of use cases. It runs full Windows 8, and therefore will, again, be capable of pretty much any job you throw at it.

For around two thirds the price, take home the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga. It’s ultra-slim and ultra-portable, whilst including a 360-degree flippable keyboard. Other tablets in the same class like the Microsoft Surface use flippable, dockable or magnetically clickable keyboard units. And this brings us to a crucial part of the tablet choosing conundrum: Windows RT.

Windows RT is a lightweight, stripped down version of Windows 8, designed to squeeze the most functionality out of less powerful (and therefore less expensive) tablet microprocessors, but also to deliver the compatibility, easy maintenance and security tools you would expect from an industrial-grade deployment of Windows 8. Windows RT machines won’t run all your desktop software (although there is a version of Office products for RT, and everyday tools like email are a given), but RT is the ideal partner for networked or cloud-delivered services. Put simply, if your Trust is making moves towards the Cloud, and you anticipate many users accessing services through a browser, then Windows RT machines are an excellent and cost-effective addition to your IT arsenal. Since trusts often have 5,000-25,000 terminals in the estate, the cost-saving of deploying a proportion of RT devices for lighter users may well be compelling.

There’s an interesting contradiction in the explosive popularity of tablets, and the role we want them to play. There’s no denying that Apple’s iPad lit the touchpaper. Consumers love tablets because they’re lightweight and portable, and excellent for watching videos and browsing the web. The iPad also represented a tablet which was desirable and beautiful to hold. But in a professional context, the value of a tablet is that we live in an increasingly visual world – it’s why we prefer charts rather than lists of numbers at the bottom of the bed. Tablets have come to fill the niches in which we want just the information we need, presented in just the way we need it, and at the right time. Healthcare – along with, for example, industrial production lines, are surely exactly that use case. In these contexts, we need the portability and connectivity, but we also want to be able to manage a large estate – hundreds of devices at a time – with the flick of a switch.

Dell certainly agree. They have just launched the Latitude 10; a dockable, small form-factor tablet, designed specifically for use in larger industrial and public sector applications because it features all the auto-update and remote management features a hard-pressed IT manager would want to see. In a deployment test in a hypothetical hospital with 250 devices and measured across a three-year lifecycle by independent consultancy, Principled Technologies, the Latitude 10:

  • Was eleven times faster to deploy than the iPad, saving 140 hours in system management and application installation
  • Was 60% cheaper to manage across the three year lifespan
  • And a whopping 99% faster for software updates

Indeed, the total management cost of the Latitude 10 was put at $11.14 per unit, and the iPad at $181.56; and at a time when money talks more than ever, those are important numbers. Every IT specialist practically has it tattooed inside their brains that the cost of any device is not just its purchase price, but also its maintenance cost. NHS organisations are large enough that they can negotiate major discounts on the initial capital purchase; and that means the ongoing cost is proportionately even more important.

Tablets are going to become ever more important in healthcare; not because they’re cute but because they’re functional. The data available to clinicians is growing; and this data needs to be at the bedside and in theatre. Similarly, the trend towards bring-your-own-device is unstoppable (and has been shown to bring considerable value). So we can expect more home devices, including tablets, to appear on Trust networks. And finally, the Cloud and go-anywhere technologies will make these trends securely possible. The range of devices plus Windows 8 and Windows RT give you a breadth of viable pricepoints and functionality; and devices like the Latitude 10 mean IT managers can deconsumerise tablet buying for enterprise-grade management.

By Nick Saalfeld, Wells Park on behalf of Microsoft UK in Health

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