Electronic Medical Records – Pros and Cons of Mobile Computing with Tablet PC’s

Posted by: Aparna Prasad

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A new survey shows that more physicians are embracing mobile technology, from smartphonesTablet PC and EMR to tablet PC’s, for professional use.  With that growth however, many believe that we’re still too early into the development of that technology to see it have a measurable impact on meaningful use and the implementation of electronic medical records.

Table PC’s have their place, and there are physicians across the United States utilizing this technology for workflow, communication and patient interaction on implementation of the EHR systems.

The research study from Spyglass Consulting (titled “Point of Care Computing for Physicians 2012”), details that 98% of physicians whom were interviewed utilize mobile devices to support personal and professional workflow.  However, 83% of those professionals were still relying on desktop computers as their primary source for accessing patient data and electronic medical records.

Despite their popularity on the consumer market, tablet PC’s such as the iPad have been slow to take hold for a number of reasons.  If you’re thinking about investing in mobile technology or tablet PC’s, consider the pros and cons of utilizing current tablet PC’s with electronic health records.

Pros of Tablet PC’s for Electronic Medical Records

Ease of use/Mobility – Unlike desktop PC’s with additional accessories and operating systems loaded third party and proprietary software, tablet PC’s are relatively easy to use.  The touch screen interface makes navigation simple, and the small design makes it as easy to move from one patient to another as if you were carrying a clip board.

Affordability – Depending on the investment in your current hardware, upgrading to tablet PC’s could be a more affordable and cost effective option over purchasing a desktop PC or mobile computer carts.  In either case, you’ll need to consider the size of your office and the number of PC’s you need.  In many cases, the cost of a tablet PC for interfacing with electronic medical records is cheaper than a high end PC that’s more reliable than your typical off-the-shelf HP in a box.

Local Data Storage – You can easily store files within the tablet or on a secondary external device such as a USB drive.  That way no matter where you (and your tablet) are located, you can access files for communication purposes – online or off.

Cons of Tablet PC’s for Electronic Medical Records

Not Designed for the Clinical Environment – One of the major issues with using tablets, despite them being widely adopted at a rapid pace – is that they aren’t designed to fit the clinical needs of physicians.  The study showed that 80% of physicians included in the survey felt the iPad showed significant promise for the healthcare industry, but was primarily being used for communications rather than interfacing with electronic medical records and practice management software.

Missing Supportive Applications – Because of the lack of design specifically for healthcare, and the app driven environment of tablet PC’s, the systems lack innovative applications that are required in order for the devices to offer as complete a solution for electronic medical records as a desktop PC or laptop.

Security Vulnerabilities – Security is an area where physicians often lose focus because it’s more IT related than medical related.  IT firms show concern for mobile computing devices like tablet PC’s in the use of electronic medical records because they have unique vulnerabilities.  This is an important point to consider when interfacing with electronic medical records over a network while accessing sensitive patient information.

The bottom line is that regardless of the size of your practice, you need to weigh the pros and cons of any device you plan on working with when implementing electronic medical records, even if it’s a web based EMR system.  Avoid focusing too heavily on meaningful use and compensation.  Until table PC’s begin to show a return on the investment, with negative functionality addressed where healthcare is concerned, they’ll likely continue to be used more for communication and as luxury devices.

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Topics: EHR Software, Web based EHR Software

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