Less than 1 percent of hospitals fully use tablets

By Chris Gullo

Female Doctor with TabletLess than one percent of US hospitals have fully functional tablet systems, according to Jonathan Mack, director of clinical research and development at the West Wireless Health Institute. Despite financial incentives from the government, US hospitals are still slow to adopt EMRs, Mack told Kaiser Health News in a recent interview. Those that do might not have access to a native tablet application from the EMR developer, and even then, the app might include only read-only functionality. To circumvent this, virtualization programs such as Citrix are used on EMRs designed for keyboard input, making for a slow and frustrating usage experience.

In September, MobiHealthnews spoke to Michael Catrini, Director of Information Systems and Infrastructure at Rutland Medical, a 188-bed hospital located in Vermont, about tablet adoption. Catrini said that this “topic is a hot [one]. Physicians are coming in and saying, ‘We want iPads!’ The real challenge with an iPad isn’t a physical challenge; it’s the applications,” he said. “If an application isn’t designed to interact with that screen size or [multitouch] technology, then it raises all kinds of issues.” Catrini believed at the time that mobile EMR apps still have a ways to go: “I think we’re six months or a year from a really good native [iPad EMR app].” (March is fast approaching.)

While other CIO types have also predicted better native EMR apps are in the works at the big name EMR vendors like Cerner and Epic, smaller design-focused shops that have concentrated on the tablet form factor, including DrChrono and Clear Practice’s Nimble, have received a number of lauds over the past year.

The article also noted the potential distraction tablets provide as an issue worth watching closely. Dr John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System in Boston, recently wrote on the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality’s Web M&M online journal about the potential of mobile devices to improve care, but cautioned that healthcare organizations had better understand and act to mitigate the risks mobility can introduce.  “Some studies conclude that such communication improves the quality of the work environment, patient safety, and care without increasing bedside interruptions. Others, however, note a significant increase in interruptions and disruption of workflow because of the lowered barrier to instant communication,” Halamka wrote.

Read more from the Kaiser Health News report here.