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Health IT Managers Say Tablets Can Cause Problems

IT managers at healthcare organizations say tablets pose challenges for entering data into enterprise healthcare applications and can raise IT support costs.

Nicole Lewis

February 3, 2012

5 Min Read

9 Tablets For Doctors

9 Tablets For Doctors

9 Tablets For Doctors (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

As the popularity of tablet use among physicians continues to grow so too has the challenges that come with integrating these devices into the health IT enterprise. That’s what a new study that polled 100 health IT managers reveals, with 74% of respondents saying tablets such as the iPad present challenges for entering data into enterprise healthcare applications and 66% say they believe providing technical support on consumer-grade tablets raises IT costs.

Published this week, the study--Diagnosis Danger: Governance & Security Issues Cause IT Concerns About iPad in Healthcare Setting--was conducted by BizTechReports, an independent research and reporting agency, in collaboration with Panasonic. The study gauged the perceptions of IT managers toward tablets as an increasingly vital tool that physicians use to enter medical data, access clinical applications, and view medical images. Among other concerns health IT managers expressed are worries over patient data security, durability of devices used in an environment where tablets can easily be dropped, and difficulties with tablet compliance with applications such as electronic health records (EHRs). "The results of the survey reveal that consumerization in general--and the launch of the Apple’s iPad in particular--has created a conundrum for healthcare CIOs and their IT departments," the report said. The document goes on to note that while tablet adoption by physicians and other clinicians meets many of their needs, often times these mobile devices create governance issues, such as how much control a hospital should have over a device owned by a physician who uses the device at work. Another issue highlighted in the report is how to administer the use of tablets in accordance with the risk-management and security policies developed by a hospital's IT organization and legal team. [ Does healthcare IT need more unconventional thinkers? See Healthcare IT Needs More Crazy CIOs. ] "Often the key to successful threat mitigation (and recovery, should worst come to worst) is full end-to-end transparency, automation and active monitoring. Blind spots that are introduced by injecting technologies like the iPad--which are incompatible with the overall architecture of enterprise systems and processes--work against efforts to manage and mitigate risk," the report states. "It’s easy for a healthcare organization to do what it wants with its products, and it can put all the controls that it wants on there. However, when the products don’t belong to [the organization, but to] the physician, they don’t necessarily have the authority to do what they want with those devices. That’s the challenge: how the device is controlled and who manages it," Greg Davidson, Panasonic’s executive business development manager, told InformationWeek Healthcare. While the report focused on the iPad, which is the product most used by clinicians in the healthcare environment, Davidson says many similar tablets fall short in their features and functionality, particularly in their inability to easily input data into clinical applications due to their on-screen keyboard. "Part of the challenge is that tablet devices are all application-driven, and a lot of the applications out there simply aren’t designed to have all their input done via a touchscreen. A lot of these applications still require the use of keyboards to enter data, and without an actual keyboard a lot of users find that very limiting," Davidson said. The report recommends that if tablets are to be more useful to physicians, vendors should develop products that include the following features: --Concise handwriting recognition (using a stylus that is effective even when a body part is touching the screen-- as is often the case when left-handed professionals are entering data with a stylus). --Extensive keyboard-based entry of narratives and thoughts on patient care. --Note dictation or recording of patient interviews. --Speech-to-text conversion at industrial-strength performance levels. --Scanning of prescription labels and patient wristbands (a major safety and security requirement that should not be ignored). The study also found that the demands of supporting these devices has shifted health IT managers' attention away from other IT priorities. Furthermore, integrating devices into a health IT setting comes at a price. "Ensuring that the device is properly configured to meet the security, compliance, and governance requirements of the enterprise requires significant investments of time as well as technical and financial resources," the report states. However, despite these challenges, the report also notes that the use of tablets opens up new opportunities to improve the delivery of care and suggests that health IT executives take the lead in developing new ways to effectively integrate devices into a healthcare infrastructure that is evolving. "CIOs and other senior technology leaders in the healthcare sector can start a meaningful dialog on the concerns that consumer technologies like the iPad raise for effective technology management. After all, proper technology stewardship is a critically important variable in the institutional health of the overall organization," the report concludes. When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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