The Tablet PC: The Wired Physician's Best Friend

January 28, 2011

The tablet PC is much akin to a new pair of shoes. Decide on what you need and then try it on. It can be a little stiff and cumbersome at first, but with each passing day it becomes more comfortable. Before you know it the daily use becomes second nature.

Each day in the office starts at 8 a.m. for me, and like most busy physicians the biggest enemy we have each day is time. On my first day of medical school, the dean told us this and as each day passes it becomes more evident.

In order to stay efficient and, most importantly, to stay on time, I use a tablet PC with my EHR software. My tablet allows me to have a clear view of the locations of each patient in my office. I can see how many patients are in the waiting room, how many are in the exam rooms, and many other functions that my software provides. The tablet allows me to have full PC functionality in a truly portable solution.

I have been in practice for just over seven years now. In that period of time, I have used the same EHR software and have gone through the full evolution of the tablet. With each passing year comes improved technology and more efficient processors with larger amounts of RAM and longer battery lives.

At present I am using a completely optimized version running Windows 7 professional 64 bit with a core i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM. Along with my current EHR, I am also using voice recognition software that interfaces through a Bluetooth headset. For the physician that uses voice recognition, I cannot stress the importance enough of adequate RAM and processor speed. For most tablets, the price comparison between the entry version versus the optimized version is negligible considering the return on investment one will see with the time savings using the optimized version.

My patients are very accustomed to seeing me walk into the exam room with my tablet in my right hand, digitizer in my left (I am a lefty of course) and the Bluetooth on my ear. Initially, my patients would politely joke with me as they commented on my embracing of technology. However, after seeing that the tablet does not interfere with their encounter and does not command my attention, they welcome it warmly.

My current office layout allows me to have privacy in the hallway between my exam rooms. I take full advantage of this and spend 30 seconds here and there to capture dictation via the voice recognition for entering information into the patient's note that cannot be entered via my EHR templates or by handwriting. If you haven't tried voice recognition, see how quickly you can type a few lines of text versus dictating those same four lines.

We are very fortunate to have such powerful tablet pc choices available to us in today's market. There is no "ideal" or recommended tablet that stands out from the others. The tablet PC is much akin to a new pair of shoes. Decide on what you need and then try it on. It can be a little stiff and cumbersome at first, but with each passing day it becomes more comfortable. Before you know it the daily use becomes second nature. The tablet PC, when used appropriately, can allow us to maximize our workflow and become even more efficient in our daily practice.