Doctors discuss why “clinical grade” matters when selecting a tablet computer

As a physician with 20 years of patient care behind me, I know all too well how important mobility is to clinical workflow. Whether healthcare professionals are working in the hospital, clinic, ancillary care facility or elsewhere, they are always on the go when caring for their patients. Until recently, the selection of available devices that had been optimized for clinical mobility were rather limited. Sure, there were desktops, laptops, tablets and even computers on wheels, but none of these were sufficient. They either didn’t fit the way clinicians really work, or they were devices intended for the consumer market but not the enterprise. And they certainly weren’t what I like to call, “clinical grade”. By that I mean lightweight yet powerful computing devices with the mobility, connectivity, data-input options, and on-board security features clinicians must have. Devices that are well-engineered and stylish, yet can handle everything from legacy EMR/HIS solutions to modern apps. Devices that clinicians love to use, but also meet the stringent requirements of enterprise IT for manageability, security and privacy. Thankfully, “clinical grade” devices are now available in a wide variety of styles, screen-sizes and price to please even the most demanding clinical users.

WP_20141020_14_58_07_ProOne such device is the Surface Pro 3. I’ve been a fan right from the start and I’ve written about my experience here on HealthBlog. However, last week I had an opportunity to get together with three physician colleagues who are practicing medicine is three different specialties. Dr. Ed Zabrek is a practicing OB-GYN at Sutter Healthcare in California. Dr. Nick Patel is an Internist with Palmetto Health in Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Rasu Shrestha is a board certified radiologist at UPMC in Pittsburgh and also serves as the organization’s Chief Innovation Officer. We gathered together last Monday for a dinner event in Boston, but earlier in the day had an opportunity to sit down with two Principal Analysts from Forrester Research in Cambridge. During our one hour meeting, my three physician colleagues shared their individual experiences using Surface in clinical practice. Here are some of the key themes they discussed with Forrester analysts.

Clinical GradeThe Surface Pro 3 is time-saver. It actually makes it possible to see a few more patients each day and go home at the end of the day having completed their chart work and documentation.

  • The Surface Pro 3 works great with both legacy EMR solutions and modern apps. By using “pinch and zoom” along with the Surface Pro 3 stylus to assist with data entry and navigation, even EMR solutions that were never designed for use on highly mobile, touch enabled tablet devices work just fine.

The Surface Pro 3 doesn’t get in the way of patient care. It is more “chart-like” to hold and use. During use, it allows the doctors to maintain good eye contact with their patients, retrieve and document information, and share information with patients.

The Surface Pro 3 is able to simultaneously run multiple applications. Doctors can have multiple charts open on one screen. They can run communication and collaboration solutions, clinical reference applications, departmental solutions and more all at the same time.

The Surface Pro 3 runs any application that runs on Windows. As the doctors stated, enterprise hospital and clinic environments all run on Windows. The Surface Pro 3 easily connects to the healthcare organization’s networks and applications.

The Surface Pro 3 is fast, well-engineered, and a delight to use, but it is also a device that is welcomed by IT departments because it can be easily deployed and managed, keeping patient information safe and secure.

My physician colleagues all loved using the Surface Pro 3, especially the flexibility of the tablet form factor in a single device that also serves as their laptop replacement or even, when docked, as their desktop configuration with multiple monitors. Although these doctors selected the Surface Pro 3, I am mindful that there are many other excellent Windows tablets now on the market from Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Acer, Motion, Advantech, and other manufacturers that come in a wide variety of screen sizes and price points. Several manufacturers, including Surface, also offer an increasing array of tablet accessories designed for use in healthcare settings. With many of these Windows devices, physicians and other clinicians will find the “clinical grade” criteria that will please not only them, but also their organizations’ IT departments.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft 

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