Tablet PCs in pharmacy practice – Barriers

Today we finish our discussion of tablet PC use in pharmacy practice with the last of our four part series.

It is unclear why tablet PCs have not been widely adopted into pharmacy practice. Healthcare as a whole appears to be interest in mobile computing as is evident by the explosion of literature investigating their use. Unfortunately the healthcare industry has been hesitant to adopt new technology as quickly as other markets. The ASHP national survey on informatics reinforced this idea as some hospital pharmacy departments continue to struggle with the implementation of basic technologies such as pharmacy computer systems, intervention tracking and integration with other hospital systems.1

The inability to see the benefit offered by tablet PCs clearly limits their utility in pharmacy practice. The mobile pharmacist is no longer tied to a single location, instead performing patient centered and cost saving interventions at the bedside. However, a recent survey of 700 hospital chief information officers (CIOs) showed that only 29% felt that point-of-care data collection was important. Over 50% of those same CIOs believed that patient safety was a priority. Obviously these CIOs fail to equate pharmacists at the point-of-care with patient safety. Literature clearly establishes the benefit of pharmacists at the bedside18-21 as well as the roll of technology in improving efficiency and patient safety.22,23

Other barriers include:

  • Lack of interest for tablet PCs when compared to other mobile devices This may not be the case for long as tablet PC popularity has increased dramatically over the past few years.24
  • Lack of capital necessary for tablet PC implementation.
  • Lack of solid wireless infrastructure in healthcare facilities.
  • Availability of newer technologies.
  • Lack of knowledge for support resources
  • Technology naïve pharmacists
  • Fear of change.
  • Some of the barriers to tablet PC implementation can be easily handled via education and various changes to the tablet, making it easier to use. Other barriers, however will require more effort and involvement of the pharmacy director and CIO. With that said, none of the barriers to implementation are large enough on their own to prevent further investigation by pharmacy departments.

    It’s clear that technology can bring a positive impact to pharmacy practice. What is not clear however is whether tablet PCs will be a stop-gap or a permanent solution for the mobile pharmacist. The evaluation and implementation of tablet PCs into pharmacy workflow is a daunting task and several questions must be answered and barriers addressed prior to moving forward. I believe it’s worth the effort as the tablet PC offers unparalleled access to patient data and drug information resources in a mobile platform. It is clearly a tool worth further investigation.

    1. Pedersen CA, Gumpper KF. ASHP national survey on informatics: Assessment of the adoption and use of pharmacy informatics in U.S. hospitals–2007. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2008;65(23):2244-2264.
    18. Fairbanks RJ, Hildebrand JM, Kolstee KE, Schneider SM, Shah MN. Medical and nursing staff highly value clinical pharmacists in the emergency department. Emerg Med J. 2007;24(10):716-718.
    19. Kaushal R, Bates DW, Abramson EL, Soukup JR, Goldmann DA. Unit-based clinical pharmacists’ prevention of serious medication errors in pediatric inpatients. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2008;65(13):1254-1260.
    20. Leape LL, Bates DW, Cullen DJ, et al. Systems analysis of adverse drug events. ADE Prevention Study Group. JAMA. 1995;274(1):35-43.
    21. Murray MD, Ritchey ME, Wu J, Tu W. Effect of a Pharmacist on Adverse Drug Events and Medication Errors in Outpatients With Cardiovascular Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(8):757-763.
    22. Ammenwerth E, Schnell-Inderst P, Machan C, Siebert U. The Effect of Electronic Prescribing on Medication Errors and Adverse Drug Events: A Systematic Review. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2008;15(5):585-600.
    23. Amarasingham R, Plantinga L, Diener-West M, Gaskin DJ, Powe NR. Clinical information technologies and inpatient outcomes: a multiple hospital study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(2):108-14.
    24. Strom D. Time to talk about tablet PCs? Tech Analysis-Channel Insider. 2008. Available at: [Accessed January 13, 2009].

    The complete article in PDF format may be found here.

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