Tablets vs. Convertibles vs. Laptops and EMR

Posted on August 3, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The one fundamental to every EMR is some sort of computer. Yes, I’m using this in the broadest since possible since there are many EMR today that are now even compatible with something like the iPhone. However, even the little iPhone is essentially a mini computer. However, computer makers have long believed that the tablet computers were great for healthcare.

As I look back over my 4 years writing this blog, it’s really interesting to see the evolution of the tablet technology. We first bought our tablet computers over 4 years ago as we implemented our EMR. Correction, we bought our first convertible tablet computers over 4 years ago. They served us quite well. The crazy thing is that almost none of our providers used any of the tablet functionality. I can count on my hands the number of times it was really beneficial to have the tablet functionality.

Since we actually ordered the convertible tablets (converts from a laptop to a tablet), all of our users pretty much just used it like a regular laptop. These convertible tablets came up for replacement as they went out of warranty and it was pretty much a no brainer decision to just purchase laptops instead of convertible tablets.

I’m not saying that the tablets aren’t without their merits. However, none of my users really adopted much of the functionality. In fact, I think I used it more than all of the clinicians combined. Although, there was one feature of the convertible tablets that was used quite often. The swivel screen. Yes, the least technical part of the convertible tablet technology is what they found so useful. They loved being able to swivel the screen to show another provider something in the EMR.

As I researched the various tablets available today as opposed to 4 years ago, I found that no computer manufacturer offered any convertible tablet larger than the 12″ screen. The ones we purchased for use with our EMR were 14″ and we didn’t want to go down. In fact, since we did away with the tablets and just went with laptops, we moved up to the 15″ monitors and all of the providers love the extra space to more easily navigate the EMR.

Of course, the computer manufacturers say that the reason they only do a 12″ size is because no one wants to carry the 14″ ones around. It’s true that 14″ is quite a lot for many providers to carry around. That’s why we just put computers in each exam room. No more carrying computers around and a nice size monitor for your EMR wherever you go.

This said, in one of my EMR consulting gigs I’ve done here locally, the doctor carries his 14″ laptop around no problem. He replaced his laptop recently and decided to continue with the same.

I was lucky enough to just get one of the second generation Dell convertible tablets. It has not only touch screen technology, but multi touch technology. It’s a lot of fun to demo and show off. However, I just don’t see much practical application for it. At least not until I implement an EMR that has touchscreen in mind when they develop the EMR.

What are your thoughts on Tablets, Convertibles and Laptops? Have you found a compelling reason to use the tablet technology in your office?