Tablet PCs in Healthcare: What's the right device for you?

This week I'm off to Whistler, B.C., for the 18th Annual Disorders of the Spine Conference chaired by Dr. Glenn Rechtine. On Monday evening I'll provide a keynote presentation on the Future of Computers in Medicine. Tuesday morning, my colleague Mike Uretz of the EHR Group and I will provide a tutorial on guidelines for selecting and implementing an electronic medical record system.

Meanwhile, this weekend I received an e-mail from someone in the UK asking for information about Tablet PCs in healthcare. I've written a couple of articles on this topic that can be found in my House Calls series on The most recent of those can be found here. The writer noted some frustration because his Tablet didn't come with a medical dictionary add-in to handle spell check and improved digital inking functionality with medical vocabularies. If you order a Tablet PC, some manufacturers such as HP and Motion offer a "medical pak". If you plan on using your Tablet in a medical setting, the medical pak will come in handy. Some Tablets also come with an array microphone that improves speech to text applications without the use of a headphone. You'll find that the base speech engine that is inherent to Windows and Office does a very fine job with generic English dictation However, if you want a robust speech to text solution for medical dictation, it will be necessary to purchase a program that is specifically designed for this purpose. New 3rd and 4th generation Tablets will soon be appearing on the market that are thinner, lighter , smaller, and even more versatile. Some of these will offer touch screen functionality and longer battery life.

There's really no such thing as a single device that meets the needs of every healthcare worker. Instead, we emphasize implementing a network infrastructure and applications that will work across an entire range of devices from desktop computers and Tablet PCs to Pocket PC's and Smartphones. Most clinicians will find themselves using more than one device depending on their work and social setting; office, hospital; automobile, home, etc. 

This is probably the most exciting time ever to be iinvolved in healthcare information technology. If you are a clinician interested in information technology and how it can be applied to improve patient care, you may wish to explore what is becoming a growing career opportunity for physicians, that of Chief Medical Information Officer.

Stay tuned for more news in coming days and weeks. 

Until next time,

Bill Crounse, M.D. Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences