The following guest editorial was submitted by Dr. Allan Horii, a Richmond, BC family physician, regular contributor to CanadianEMR, and longtime EMR User.
It seems tablets are in vogue again.
Thanks largely to the success of the iPad, consumers have embraced the “tablet” or “slate” format of computing. What’s often overlooked is that tablet PCs had been available for a number of years prior to the introduction of the iPad. Adopted primarily by vertical markets, such as healthcare, these computers never enjoyed widespread success because they were too heavy, battery life was poor, and the Windows operating system didn’t seem to provide an elegant way to interface with the tablet. The iPad was revolutionary in that it showed that a device could be light, intuitive to use, optimized for touch input, and provide long battery life. We are starting to see the iPad make more in-roads into the health sector, with new medical apps, and physicians and hospitals adopting the device into their workflow. However, many current EMRs still depend on the Windows OS to function.
I’ve been a strong proponent of tablet PCs for use with EMRs. There has been a steady evolution in the technology since I first began using them around seven years ago. Processors are becoming more powerful and energy efficient, battery technology is improving, and weight is decreasing. The greatest quantum leap I’ve seen thus far has been Samsung’s recent offering, the 700T Series 7 Slate. I have to say it’s the most impressive Windows-based tablet device I’ve ever used. The Series 7 slate weighs a mere 0.87 kg (1.91 lb) on my scale. That feels like an immense difference in hand, roughly half the weight of my last two tablets (the Lenovo Thinkpad X201 and the HP Elitebook 2730p). It has a bright 11.6” LCD screen that supports both touch input and a Wacom digitizer pen. Its slim, 1 cm profile holds an Intel Core i5-2467M processor running Windows 7 (64 bit), with 4 GB of RAM and the option of a 64 or 128 GB SSD drive.
This device works well with my EMR. I can navigate screens and menus with either my finger or the digitizer pen. Handwriting recognition thus far has been excellent. Battery life has also been very good: 5+ hours running Wi-Fi. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that a tablet PC allows me to remain engaged with patients while using my EMR; I can access my patient file and still face the patient, just like the old days with my paper chart. The pen also gives me an additional tool to enter information: for example, simple diagrams of physical exam details can be drawn, or pre-generated figures provided by the EMR can be marked up with more precision than a mouse. The tablet has a 3 megapixel rear camera which comes in handy for recording images of skin lesions, etc. A docking station and Bluetooth keyboard are also available if a desktop-like setup is periodically required .
Samsung has indicated that they will be shipping this tablet with Windows 8 loaded on it next year. That promises to be a further improvement, because Windows 8 has been optimized for touch with its Metro interface. In any case, the release of this device bodes well for tablet advocates, like myself. I’m very excited. I hope we will see similar designs and further improvements in the near future.
Allan Horii MD
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