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Clinicians will be using tablets more often in health care in 2013, though not necessarily for patient records, if 2012's rapid expansion of the use of tablets in health care is any indication, said CDW Healthcare Sales Director Jonathan Karl.
CDW's recent poll of 150 health care workers indicated that two-way electronic health record (EHR) interaction (viewing, editing, entering data) has not caught on for tablets, despite vendors touting the virtues of iPad EHR systems. Instead, he said, health care employees are using the devices to access basic office productivity apps and mostly viewing clinical data when they interact with an EHR system.
"They're using them [with patients] primarily as a tool for educating and informing," Karl said. "For personal use, it's primarily email, Web browsing and file storage."
Other findings from the poll:
- 59% indicated they own their tablet, not their employer.
- Some health care workers indicated they like using their tablets at work because it can increase collaboration and improve workflow, though most like the tablet's ability to view information on the go, where laptops and desktop workstations can't.
- 66% of respondents also use a desktop computer; 57% also use a laptop; and 45% also use a smartphone. Only 1% indicated they work exclusively on a tablet.
- Respondents spend an average of 2.4 hours a day using a tablet, claiming 1.2 hours of gained daily productivity because of it.
How do smartphones enter the mix? They're used almost exclusively of each other according to CDW data. Phone use typically is tied to specific tasks within the workflow, such as nurse calls and emergency communications, while the tablets come into play for viewing images and text data, as well as checking in with other practitioners for consults, recommendations and medication questions or followups.
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"We haven't seen a lot of use in the lighter weight tablets -- the touchscreen tablets that are just an interface -- in care itself," Karl said. "It's more [for] education."
Karl sees tablet use expanding next year, based on information from the poll and conversations with customers in the field. While meaningful use might be promoting robust EHR use in the course of care, he sees tablet use creating efficiencies such as saving trips back to a workstation to access information. He believes data entry still won't be happening much because EHRs are not yet optimized to be that useful on tablets.
"They're still learning how to use them more efficiently," Karl said. "What we see and hear from CIOs and IT directors across the country is, 'I can't keep them out so I have to find a way to embrace them and make them more useful,' and as they've been allowing their folks to use them, they come up with more and more creative ways to become more efficient."
As privacy policies and security technologies get ironed out to make bring-your-own-device environments more workable and their interfaces improve, tablets could make deeper inroads into care workflows. Once they are, Karl predicts another "clinical wave" of tablet use.
The stage 2 provisions of meaningful use for sharing radiology images could expand tablet use as providers show patients X-rays, CT scans and MRIs via tablet-specific viewer apps.