Tablets are taking over as a tool of choice for physicians, says a survey by Kantar Media, with just over half of medical professionals using the hand-held computers to read up on the latest journal articles, conduct research on patient care, and email with colleagues. Fifty-one percent of physicians say they use a tablet during their daily work, while nearly the same amount also use the device for personal tasks. While smartphones still beat tablets in numbers and frequency of use, physicians generally prefer to do their reading and research on the bigger screen.
The survey of more than 3000 physicians found that nearly a third of respondents use tablets to read up on medical publications and 16% watch webcasts or listen to podcasts on professional topics using their iPad, Kindle, or Surface. Tablets have been making their way into hospitals and offices at a steady pace, through patient-oriented telehealth pilots and monitoring programs intended to engage patients and give providers an edge over chronic diseases.
Other recent surveys have confirmed the interest in tablets among providers, with an Epocrates study over the summer stating that “digital omnivore” physicians and nurses will drive the influx of mHealth devices into the daily workflow. “Today’s digital omnivores express a preference for mobile screens across all professional tasks – an important behavioral shift that has potential to dramatically shape the way developers, content providers and marketers engage with clinicians as the three-screen workflow becomes the norm,” the report stated.
“As physicians continue to shift their work-related tasks to mobile devices, they must overcome technological hurdles challenging them from completing some of their most important tasks, namely interacting with EHRs and recording clinical notes.” An unrelated CDW survey adds that physicians can gain more than an hour of productivity by using tablets to help them multitask, with 84% of physicians saying that the devices make them more efficient and happier doing necessary paperwork.
However, completing those tasks that require access to EHR software faces certain limitations when squeezed onto tablet-sized screens with tablet-sized processing power. Though mobile versions of desktop-based EHRs are becoming more and more popular with providers as vendors revamp their designs to fit smaller devices, physicians are finding new ways to fit the devices into their workflow, whether it’s for research or for conducting basic patient-facing tasks.
“Tablets have small screens and are on a wireless network,” explains Stanley Crane, Chief Innovation Officer at EHR giant Allscripts. “So you’re on the slowest network, have the smallest screen, and probably have the slowest computer in the environment. Now what can you do, given all these limitations? What can we do really, really effectively on the tablet? These are things like renew a medication, reconcile allergies, or deal with messages inside the clinic.”
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