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Tablets triumph at HIMSS13, heralding the mHealth revolution

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Any doubts that smartphones, tablets, apps, and mHealth are going to be the next big thing were erased at HIMSS13 this year, as attendees only had to look around the exhibition center to be convinced that small, tough, fast devices are on top of healthcare’s wish list.  From big consumer names like Microsoft and Dell to medical-grade specialists Motion Computing and MioCare, there is a tablet to suit every clinical need, and hospitals, physicians, and nurses are taking notice.

Late last year, HIMSS released its Second Annual Mobile Technology Survey, and found that 93% of physicians already use mobile devices daily, with 80% using tablets or smartphones to directly facilitate and improve patient care.  “Mobility in healthcare isn’t a new concept any more,” says Eric Wicklund on the HIMSS blog, “and it’s a significant stepping stone to the future of healthcare delivery. It can and will enable the healthcare provider to push away from the limited confines of the examination room and develop a practice with more potential, not to mention better outcomes.”

Tablet makers who are focused on helping providers fulfill the promise of mobile products have an uphill battle in front of them: while Apple’s iPad has opened up a huge market that didn’t exist half a decade ago, other companies have to convince buyers that the iPad isn’t actually their best solution for the demands of the hospital and clinic. “Apple has made it very clear that they are not customizing their platform for business,” Dell’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Litt told MobiHealthNews.  And that includes healthcare.  Even with the most tailored medical software, iPads can’t be washed or rubbed down with sanitizer, might slip out of the grip of latex gloves, and aren’t tough enough for an EMT to take on the road without risking a cracked screen.

While iPads are perfect for watching movies and playing games, Panasonic touts the ruggedness of its offering – it displayed its ToughPad under a stream of water – and Dell and Motion Computing focused on the security demands of a mobile device that routinely handles critically sensitive patient data with tablets that include fingerprint and barcode scanners.  Built-in features like serial ports that connect to legacy medical devices and smartcard readers help distinguish medical-grade tablets from consumer options, offering the clinical environment the special considerations it needs.

“[Panasonic tablets] all came about because customers said they like the form factor, but it doesn’t really work from a reliability, security, sanitizablility context in the environment,” said Kyp Walls, Director of Product Management at Panasonic. “Everybody working outside of an administrative category needs something rugged. If clinicians are worrying about equipment and not their patients, they’re less effective.”

With more than three quarters of physicians believing that tablets make multitasking easy, and more than 90% enjoying the ease of accessing clinical information from anywhere, tablets are a relatively inexpensive way to make use of EHR software that’s increasingly optimized for mobile use. “Based on the productivity gains we have seen just on the email, Web, and calendar usage,” said Jonathan Karl, sales director for CDW Healthcare, “I think it’s safe to assess that [tablets] will continue into more creative use as the clinicians find more ways to use them effectively.”




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