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How Tablets are Influencing Healthcare

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   March 06, 2013

This article first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Like a surging tide, the next wave of technology has landed in hospitals, changing the nature of healthcare delivery. Tablet computers are overturning concepts of how clinicians will use technology, raising work-life balance issues, and having a beneficial impact on hospital IT budgets.

Tablet computers have gone from relative obscurity to something approximating the appearance of stethoscopes: Nearly every doctor has one. What's different with this generation of technology is that demand is coming from clinicians rather than being rolled out by IT departments.

"Certainly the iOS devices from Apple are very popular among physicians," says Ferdinand Velasco, MD, chief health information officer at Texas Health Resources, an Arlington-based system that includes 25 hospitals, more than 21,100 employees, 5,500 physicians with staff privileges, and 3,800 licensed hospital beds.

A recent internal survey of more than 2,000 Texas Health–affiliated physicians found that 80% of them have smartphones and 50% have tablets, Velasco says.

The spread of these devices parallels a recent surge in bring-your-own-device—or BYOD—behavior at hospitals. But the so-called consumerization of IT is hardly unique to healthcare, Velasco notes.

Apple's iPad has been the catalyst for tablets in healthcare, says Frederick Holston, chief technology officer at Intermountain Healthcare, a Salt Lake City–based network that includes 22 hospitals, a medical group with more than 185 physician clinics, an affiliated health insurance company, and more than 33,000 employees.

"We have PCs at every bedside, so tablets haven't been a big thing for us," Holston says. "But for us, the word tablet changed with the iPad, and it changed because we had a long-battery-life device that was very light and had a very intuitive user interface that was very responsive and provided what was really missing in tablets."

Unlike many previous iterations of the personal computer, clinicians want to use them, says Jonathan Perlin, MD, CMO and president of the clinical and physician services group at HCA, the Nashville-based for-profit company that includes about 163 hospitals and 110 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and England and employs approximately 199,000 people.


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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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