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Tablet EHRs, other devices support clinical mobility

Understanding physician workflow is key to choosing what mobile systems they need, such as tablet EHRs.

What do we mean by "clinical mobility"? This is a phrase that has different meanings, and we must stop and consider a few factors to frame the discussion. First, we must consider the type of physician: Is the physician an internist who spends 100% of her time in the hospital setting? Or is the physician a family medicine doctor who spends 100% of his time in the outpatient office? Perhaps the physician is a cardiologist who spends 30% of her time in two hospitals and 50% of her time in three outpatient offices. Or the physician could be an anesthesiologist who spends 100% of his time in a single hospital.

What we will soon discover is that some physicians spend most of their time in a single setting, such as a hospital. Many doctors, however, travel to different hospitals, offices and clinics, and treat patients in a variety of settings. They need to have access to all patient data and to all hospital health IT systems so they can retrieve patient information, review labs and other test results, and enter orders and prescriptions into electronic systems.

In short, many doctors need access to patient records and health IT systems when they are outside of a hospital setting. They need access from home at any time of the week. Some physicians also need immediate access for when they are taking a lunch break in the hospital cafeteria.

For doctors, clinical mobility is about having access to entire, fully functional health IT platforms from a small, light mobile device that is connected to their health system network. Doctors who travel to different hospitals and clinics may be faced with using different EHRs and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems. Hence, password security and single sign-on are of extreme importance to ensure patient data breaches do not occur. Many doctors are trying to make tablets like the Apple iPad meet their needs, but the Apple iOS doesn't support most enterprise-level applications, such as inpatient EHRs or CPOE systems. Workarounds to address these gaps have been slow and cumbersome at best.

Newer tablets running Windows 8 show tremendous promise for physicians who are willing to be early adopters of an operating system that isn't as intuitive as iOS. Physicians rapidly are discovering that the benefits of having access to a fully functional PC can outweigh the disadvantages. We will be seeing smaller Windows 8 tablets this summer. These devices should be more "pocketable," for example, the popular Apple iPad mini, which has an 8" screen and fits nicely into a white coat's pocket.

Clinical mobility is about more than physicians checking email on their smartphone or looking up drug dosing information on a mobile app. Physician mobility is about equipping physicians to have immediate access to patient information. Physician mobility is transforming clinical workflow and reducing medical errors. It is empowering physicians to boost productivity and improving patient care by harnessing the power of IT at their fingertips.

Joseph Kim is a physician technologist who has a passion to leverage health IT to improve public health. Dr. Kim is the founder of, as well as an active social media specialist. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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