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How Tablets are Modernizing the Medical Practice

Whether it's an iPad, HP ElitePad, Dell Venue or any other tablet in between, the hand-held computer isn't just for patients killing time in the waiting room (although they're great for that, too). These little technological beauties also are helping physicians, nurses and staff optimize electronic medical records, scheduling, patient education and more.

What are some great strategies for using tablets and what should you look for when purchasing them for your medical practice? We asked physicians and tablet experts about the key capabilities to look for and how to use them to streamline operations, save time, and provide patients with better care and service.

What to Consider When Choosing Tablets

Besides your budget, there are four key considerations when choosing tablets for your medical practice:

  1. Ease of use for staff and patients
  2. Data security
  3. Integration with EMR and practice management software
  4. Durability and battery life

Having a tablet that functions in a variety of ways and withstands the rigors of being schlepped around all day is crucial.

Logan Stewart, community manager for OrthoCarolina in Charlotte, NC, says her company considered several criteria when deciding to outfit its locations with tablets for daily use. “Ease of use for the patient, price of the product, security of the device and suggestions from the software vendor factored into our decision,” Stewart says.

Jordan Chrysafidis, VP of US OEM sales and marketing for Microsoft Corp. in Seattle, WA, suggests matching the device to the user’s needs. “Healthcare workers are constantly on the move,” he says, so portability is key. “Two-in-one devices that operate in tablet or laptop mode, have active stylus support for natural data entry and sanitization capabilities [such as being disinfected with a wipe] provide the features necessary for improved productivity and ease of use.”

But having easily accessed, personal information at your fingertips must come with security measures to protect sensitive details. Many tablets are equipped, or can be factory programmed, with security measures, making these devices much more secure and useful.

“Tablets which support biometric or smartcard support and feature advanced tools for end-to-end security—such as remote wipe capabilities—are integral to ensuring HIPAA, and other regulatory compliance policies,” Chrysafidis says. Some hospitals and medical practices create regulations to further maintain the safety of patients’ protected health information.

How to Use Tablets in Your Practice

Once you’ve selected the right devices for your practice, how are you going to use them?

OrthoCarolina uses tablets for everything from patient intake to showing patients surgical education videos. “It allows for the clinical staff to spend more quality time with the patient as opposed to entering information into the computer from a paper form,” Stewart says. “A tablet allows the patient to participate in their care directly.” You can let patients or caregivers instantly update address or insurance information or see the notations and records healthcare workers are documenting firsthand.

Christopher Tashjian, MD FAAFP, a family practice physician at Ellsworth Medical Clinic in Ellsworth, WI, says he uses a tablet for everything from dictating patient notes to making phone calls and sending in prescriptions. He no longer has to log into separate computers when going from room to room, and the tablet makes it convenient to access and handle medical records.

“It’s portable, easy to use, intuitive, and my patients are impressed with the up-to-date use of technology,” he says.

That’s why he believes tablets will eventually replace bulky laptops and tied-down desktops in the doctor’s office. And with better security, accessibility and cloud features, the opportunities for use seem limitless. “I foresee everything going mobile,” he says. “In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time.”

Claire Parker writes about healthcare and business for the UNC Lineberger Cancer Research Center, The Vasculitis Foundation and several award-winning national and local publications. She lives in Wilmington, NC, and relishes Southern novels, gardens and anything to do with saltwater and sand. Follow Claire on Google+