6 Ways to Use Tablets in Your Practice

November 6, 2013

According to a mobile trends survey recently conducted by Epocrates, there has been a dramatic growth in tablet adoption by physicians across the country. In its 2nd Annual Mobile Trends Survey, of the 1,063 physicians surveyed, 85 percent of clinicians announced that they will be using a tablet in a professional manner by June of 2014, a 63 percent increase from this year. Additionally, the survey revealed the top three tasks that clinicians rely on their tablet include:


EHR/Notes/e-Prescribing (49%)

     General search (39%)

     Access a Professional Resource (24%)


We wondered how else are medical practices using tablets in their practice and posed this very question to professionals in the industry. Below are just some of the ways that practices such as yours can use a tablet in your practice.

1. Connect with decision-makers

One of the greatest benefits of tablets in the medical field is their ability to instantly connect critical data with decision makers. Wireless-enabled tablets allow physicians to access EHR software at their fingertips from anywhere.


“Doctors can review information while in transit before they see the patient; they can apply clinical decisions, monitor vital signs and alert staff to unexpected results,” says Scott Thie, director of healthcare for Panasonic System Communications Company. “Nurses can document patient information at the patient’s bedside.”


All of this can be done in their offices, the hallway or diagnostic areas, without the need for a cart.


2. Be more productive


Another benefit lies in the education, productivity and collaboration capabilities of tablet computing.


“Leading enterprise-grade tablets can integrate seamlessly with enterprise operating systems and legacy applications, giving physicians the freedom to develop presentations, spreadsheets and notes wherever it’s convenient, and transfer them easily from desktop and laptop computers to their mobile devices,” says Thie.


In addition, wireless technology allows tablet users to store documents and data in the cloud, collaborate, and share information effortlessly.


Thie adds durable, rugged tablets are especially well-suited to the physicians practice. In a medical environment, daily activities such as vibration, frequent drops and liquid spills can cause most consumer-style tablets to fail.


“Tablets should be engineered rugged enough to withstand a fall to a hard surface, and sealed to withstand spills and dust to ensure reliable operation,” he notes.  


Furthermore, most consumer-grade tablets cannot be fully sanitized in compliance with strict medical requirements due to inadequate liquid resistance and ingress protection. Healthcare providers need to ensure the devices they select are certified to be kept clean and disinfected at all times in order to reduce the possible spread of bacteria and viruses.


3. Demonstrate procedures to patients


Dr. Saroj Misra, DO, FACOFP and director of medical education at St. John Providence Hospital System in Michigan, finds his iPad Mini is an excellent way to demonstrate to patients relevant anatomy and procedures that they may undergo.


“When setting patients up for a procedure, they often wish to know what it will be like,” he says.


Using a combination of YouTube videos (or ones the hospital has developed itself) and Anatomy applications such as 'Essential Anatomy 2,’ Dr. Misra is able to show a patient the areas that will be examined and the procedure steps that will occur.


“I can do this in a time-efficient manner and even have them review videos while I am handling other paperwork issues for my patient,” he says. “Then, when it's time to write a prescription, I often use Epocrates on my iPad mini to determine proper dosing or if a new medication interacts with ones the patient is already on.”


4. Improve patient care


William Blazey, DO, of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, sees patients at the Riland Academic Health Care Center and uses tablets in his practice. For Dr. Blazey, a tablet can eliminates the barrier of a computer screen and brings back the perception of the paper chart.


“You can access EMR while not having a desktop or laptop computer between you and the patient,” he says.


In addition, he finds tablets useful in accessing images that assist with patient care. For instance, he says many medical sites have information geared for patients with diagrams that make understanding their diagnosis/treatment easier.


“I can review medications and their interactions in real time to avoid potential interactions,” he says. “An ePrescription service directly allows for prescriptions to be sent to a pharmacy and confirmed. Also, prescription drug monitoring programs such as the one we use can be easily accessed to decrease abuse potentials.”


5. Communicate better with staff and patients


Dr. Manju Chopra, a pediatrician in New York City, created PINGMD, an app that easily organizes messages and allows physicians to better coordinate care communications with their staff and patients.


“I can't deal with email, paging, phone messages, sticky notes and walk ins, and PINGMD simplifies my communication workflow and reduces the lag time to resolve so many of the work tasks we need to manage,” he says.


He also uses his tablet to enter patient data through his EMR and confirm results review.


“It helps me keep mobile and not tethered to a desktop so I can be engaged with data real-time,” he says.


One other way Dr. Chopra uses his tablet is for continuing medical education purposes.


“I review articles and video for self-education or review complex disease areas that I need a refresher,” he says. “I can do this as I have coffee or lunch or on the subway home in a podcast.”


6. Store files and records


Dr. Kenric M. Murayama, chairman of department of surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital, uses an app called iAnnotate as his digital file cabinet on his iPad. With iAnnotate, physicians can view, mark up and share documents on their iPad or Android tablet. Annotated files are then easily shared with colleagues via email or auto-sync with cloud services including Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Microsoft SkyDrive and WebDAV.


“Historically, physicians use file cabinets to store all their documents – instead, I use iAnnotate as my digital file cabinet,” says Dr. Murayama. “When colleagues send me PDFs or Word documents, I download them to iAnnotate and sort them into folders and subfolders within the app to keep them organized.”


Then, when Dr. Murayama needs an article on a certain topic or if he’s at a meeting and needs to pull up a file, he simply pulls up the folder in iAnnotate and it’s all right there.


“It’s also very useful for reviewing long documents,” he says. “I can open a 200 page document and scroll through tabs in the navigation panel to find previous notes and markers. The beauty of it is, I have a whole file cabinet’s worth of information, but I can carry it around with me everywhere I go.”


In fact, Dr. Murayama has practically replaced his laptop with his iPad.


“I believe that this sort of technology is the wave of the future for people in healthcare,” he says. “Though unfortunately, many doctors are slow to adopt.”


Dr. Murayama notes that he always advices people in his profession to be open about trying new apps: “most of them are inexpensive, so give them a try and the worst that happens is you don’t love it and you’ve wasted a few dollars at most.” In addition, he uses apps such as OfficePro, TopNote, and SlideShark in addition to iAnnotate to improve his workflow.


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