Every once in a while I like to put my old IT hat back on (I am @techguy on Twitter after all) and look at some of the more physical IT aspects of EMR and healthcare IT. I still get really excited about EMR Technology products and the evolution of these products.
I’ve long argued that most IT administrators would much rather have a set of Windows 8 tablets in their environment over a bunch of iPads or Android tablets. The biggest reasons for this was because of the security and management of these devices. Most hospital and healthcare IT administrators are comfortable securing a Windows based device and they aren’t as comfortable with new tablets like the iPad or Android tablets. Plus, the tools for managing and imaging Windows based tablets is so much more developed than those of the iPad or Android (although, I think both of these are catching up pretty quickly).
While I think both of these arguments are reasonable, I heard two new arguments for why an organization might want to stick with Windows 8 tablets instead of moving to iPads and Androids.
The first reason is that the lifecycle of a Windows 8 machine is much longer than an iPad or Android tablet. A Windows 8 tablet that you bought 5 years ago could still easily be supported by an IT shop and will work with your various software systems. A 3 year old iPad could very well not work with your EHR software and Apple has already stopped supporting O/S upgrades on the original iPads which poses similar HIPAA Compliance issues to Windows XP.
The whole release cycle with iPad and Android tablets is intent on replacing the previous versions. They don’t quite make them obsolete, but they’ve been releasing new versions every year with the intent for you to buy a new one every year. This stands in stark contrast to the Windows tablet approach.
Another reason many IT admins will likely lean towards Windows 8 tablets over iPads and Androids is that they’re just generally more rugged. Sure, you can make iPads and Androids more rugged with certain cases, but then you lose the look and feel of having an iPad in your hand and nicely in your pocket.
This point is accentuated even more when you look at devices like the new Toughpad tablets from Panasonic. They’ve finally got the processing power in these machines to match that of a desktop so they can run any software you want. Plus, they are crazy durable. I saw them at CES last month and a journalist from India was slamming it on the ground and stepping on it and the thing kept ticking without a problem. I don’t need to explain to any of you why durability matters in healthcare where you’re always carrying around multiple items and drops are common.
Of course, the reality is that it’s “sexy” to carry around an iPad while you work. Software vendors are going to continue developing for the iPad and doctors are going to want to be carrying an iPad around with them. IT staff are likely going to have to support iPads and other tablets in their environment. However, when it’s left to the IT staff, you can be sure that the majority of them will be pushing for the more rugged, easier to secure, easier to manage, and longer lifecycle Windows 8 tablets. Unless of course, they’re ordering an iPad for their own “test” environment.