new version of its Windows 8-based Latitude tablet that includes security and battery features that the company believes will help it compete with the dominant iPad in the healthcare market.
Concomitantly, Dell released a pair of studies that the company says support its claim that the new Latitude 10's total cost of ownership for three years will be 59% lower than that of the iPad.
The Latitude 10 has two features that make it especially useful in healthcare, said Andy Litt, MD, Dell's chief medical officer, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. First, the tablet includes a fingerprint reader and a smart card reader that will allow for dual-factor authentication of users; the tablet already had built-in encryption and will add file-level encryption in the second quarter. Because theft and loss of devices account for the majority of security breaches, Litt noted that this level of security is very important to healthcare organizations.
[ For more on managing mobile technology in healthcare, see BYOD: Is Mobile Device Management The Answer? ]
Second, the Latitude 10 has a 20-hour battery life, which should be attractive to clinicians who work hospital shifts that can be 12 hours or longer. According to a recent review, the Retina iPad's battery lasts 13.5 hours. And the Latitude's battery, unlike the iPad's, can easily be replaced by users.
The core of Dell's argument, however, is that it's simpler and less expensive for health IT personnel to manage Latitude 10 tablets than iPads. The main reason, Litt said, is that the Latitude tablet runs in a Windows environment, which allows health IT staff to apply the same skills and tools they use for setting up and maintaining Windows-based PCs and laptops. In addition, he noted, it should be easier for software vendors to develop Latitude versions of Windows-based healthcare applications than to create iPad versions of those same applications.
To lay the groundwork for this thesis, Dell commissioned Harris Interactive to do a survey of health IT decision makers to find out how tablets are used in healthcare and what it costs to manage them. The survey of 204 healthcare executives -- half of whom said that their organizations offer tablets to their staff -- revealed the following results:
-- On average, institutions that use tablets spend an estimated $2,235 configuring each device to work within their organization.
-- 51% of tablet-using institutions report that the devices required additional software or tools beyond those used to manage laptops and desktops.
-- 42% of IT decision makers in tablet-using organizations spent between 10 and 29 minutes per tablet to achieve a certain level of security.
-- 44% of tablet-using organizations reported that there are applications that are currently used in their organization on desktop and laptop computers that cannot currently be accessed on tablets.
Dell hired another outside firm to compare how much it cost to implement and manage the Latitude 10 vs. the iPad. This study, based on a lab test, showed that the Latitude was 11 times faster to deploy and 59% cheaper to manage over three years than the iPad. Software applications could be updated 99% faster on the Dell tablet than on the iPad, the researchers also found.
A Dell spokeswoman insisted that this lab test should be considered a reliable indicator of how the two tablets would compare in a real healthcare environment because it "ran through all the steps it took to get a tablet ready and update an application."
While there aren't many touch-enabled healthcare applications yet for Windows-based tablets, Dell expects that the Latitude 10 will prompt development. "Software vendors have been waiting for Windows 8 tablets to become available before they move in that direction -- it's not that they don't have other things on their plate," said Litt. "So it's a bit of chicken-or-egg thing. Now that the tablets are out, it will drive change on the software vendors' part."
However, he added, only certain electronic health record functions will be touch-enabled. "For example, you can imagine a nurse at a patient's bedside using a tablet to record blood pressure, or a doctor showing a patient MRI images or ordering drugs for the patient on the tablet. It's less likely that the doctors will use a touch methodology to enter a discharge summary, which can be three pages long."
Nevertheless, doctors can plug an external keyboard into the Latitude 10 if they want to type summaries or other notes.
A key drawback of the iPad for physicians is that few EHR vendors have developed iPad-native versions of their applications. The Dell spokeswoman could not say whether any EHR vendors have developed versions for Windows 8 tablets, but she noted that Microsoft has been working with Allscripts to encourage the vendor community to develop more apps for Allscripts on the Windows 8 platform.
As large healthcare providers test the limits, many smaller groups question the value. Also in the new, all-digital Big Data Analytics issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Ask these six questions about natural language processing before you buy. (Free with registration.)