Move over desktops and laptops. Tablets are making big inroads in the medical profession. Medical support for doctors, nurses, and physical therapists is expected to be one of the top 10 commercial business application categories for tablet devices this year, according to Gartner. Because of their size and portability, tablets are ideal for a number of clinical workflow tasks, industry observers say. Those tasks include entering handwritten notes into electronic health records (EHRs), generating accurate prescriptions, and sharing information with patients, such as x-rays.
"Medical is actually one of the most obvious use cases for tablets," said Michael Faucette, group vice president for software business solutions at IDC. "The workforce, particularly doctors, [is] mobile, contained in a space that is easily covered by Wi-Fi," he said. Doctors "have heavy information needs and are required to record almost everything that they do."
Workstations are a less attractive alternative, Faucette said, because doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are moving constantly and interacting with patents in short increments during their shifts. Other tasks that are a natural fit for tablets are patient diagnostic/exam activities, training, administration, filling out patient forms, and collaboration between doctors and across different sites.
More medical providers are turning to tablets as part of the next wave of mobile adoption to increase productivity and improve patient care, according to CompTIA's Third Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities study, released in November.
"As mobile devices and applications have become more user-friendly, affordable and powerful, they appeal to businesses of all types, including healthcare providers, has grown exponentially," said Tim Herbert, vice president of research for CompTIA, in a statement.
One-quarter of healthcare providers surveyed report currently using tablets within their practice. Another 21% expect to do so within 12 months. Presently, about 38% of physicians with a mobile device capable of supporting applications use medical-related apps on a daily basis. Over the next 12 months, physicians expect to increase usage of medical apps to the point where 50% are using them daily. The study was based on a survey of 350 doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers or administrators.