Can the Apple tablet, i.e. the iSlate, resurrect interest for tablets in healthcare?

I read an interesting blog today. In the blog the author states that:

An Apple tablet would be the ultimate UI for electronic medical records. With a touch-screen display like the iPhone, using the EMR during an encounter would be simplified. For example, selecting an evaluation and management (E&M) code could be as easy as “dialing in” the code with a swipe of a finger.

Using the iPhone’s intelligent keyboard technology, the device could have a very sophisticated automatic coding tool. Some EMRs can already auto-generate E&M codes based on information collected during the patient encounter. Combine this with the iPhone’s keyboard word suggestion tool, and physicians could rapidly select codes. Additionally, just as the iPhone adapts its keys and layout for different applications, the Mac Tablet could display a unique keyboard setting for each EMR function.

Using iPhone speech recognition technology, physicians could dictate directly into an EMR to create notes, draft narrative reports or generate custom patient instructions. Mac design programs could be repurposed to make a really slick tablet drawing tool for anatomical diagrams that illustrate procedures and diagnoses.

There is no question that I think tablets are underutilized in healthcare. I have pushed them into the hands of pharmacists at my facility and have tried various different things to encourage their use. While I would love to see tablet computers adopted in mass among healthcare systems, I just don’t think it’s in the cards for the iSlate for several reasons.

– Most of what I’ve read about the mythical Apple tablet is that it will be marketed to consumers as an entertainment device. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. The device has been described by many as a “large iPhone”. Would that be the best device for healthcare? That’s a good question and one that I would like to answer some day.

– Apple computers have yet to be accepted in the healthcare industry on a large scale. Individual healthcare providers have embraced Macs, but overall large facilities continue to overwhelmingly use the Windows operating system. I just don’t see facilities testing the Mac waters with the iSlate.

– The healthcare industry needs to rethink their IT infrastructure. Moving away from the desktop and toward the “cloud” would be a good start. In order to integrate new operating systems into mainstream healthcare, we must develop a system independent of the platform chosen.

– The unknown. Apple has proven that they can create quality devices, but the iSlate is an unknown commodity at this point. Many CIOs aren’t willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on something they aren’t comfortable with.

– Lack of quality IT service personnel. I’ve worked at several healthcare facilities here in the Central Valley and I can say without hesitation that my current facility is fairly tech savvy and progressive. With that said, when I wanted to purchase my own Mac laptop for use as my primary work machine our IT department almost had an MI. Their view of Mac was that of a high maintenance, high cost, all fluff system. I have three desktop Macs and a Mac laptop at home and I think they are great machines. My point is that many IT departments are not ready to support an Apple device, no matter how popular it is.

– General lack of interest in tablet technology. While there is tremendous interest in the iPhone platform, it remains to be seen if that will translate into interest for the Apple tablet. Currently interest in tablet technology among healthcare professionals is lukewarm. Mostly users complain about weight, poor handwriting recognition, battery life, poor wireless connectivity, etc.

The iSlate has clearly generated interest among the technology community. This combined with the strong showing of tablets at the annual CES show this year may indeed usher in the era of tablet computers in healthcare. However, I think the platform to do this has yet to be designed. Here’s to the future.

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