In Defense of Tablets
The good DrLyle recently sent a submission to these hallowed pages in which he stated, “…it is well known that the general idea of using a tablet in healthcare has tried and failed multiple times.” Hmmm…
Now, this isn’t the first I’ve heard of people poo-pooing the pen tablet as less than functionally desirable for doctoring duties. But, it inspired me to offer a defense of our little PT pals, a form factor which works in our office every single day.
Maybe having a desktop PC in every exam room works in an internist’s office, but when I see what the children do (and what the parents let them do) to our beautiful office space every, single day …Hoo Boy! I simply can’t imagine the condition of exam room PCs nor the cost of repair and replacement over time. We have video monitors in recessed wall boxes behind protective Plexiglas panels in each room for patient educational and PR purposes; even those have been pried into. The images of spilled goo and repeated poundings that a desktop would take in an exam room, if unattended by a staffer for even a few minutes, makes me shudder.
Currently, we use Lenovo X200 convertible pen tablets. They fly with Windows 7 and their battery life is much better than the Lenovo X41s we used previously. (Our EHR isn’t completely compatible with Windows 7/IE8, but the speed gain is worth the few glitches or inaccessible items. Besides, compatibility will be full-blown soon and we have a few XP machines around to access those items when infrequently necessary.) We often use them more as laptops than tablets; most of us prefer the regular keyboard and TrackPoint to the onscreen keyboard and pen. Still, the flexibility is there and we do employ all the different configurations at various times.
I haven’t yet seen a data input device — short of a scribe — that works as well as the old pen and paper in a busy, noisy pediatric office. Tablet pens, mice, TrackPoints, voice recognition, trackballs, regular or on-screen keyboards, handwriting recognition — all have their workflow problems. But the TrackPoint and keyboard combination, in our regular day-to-day chaos, works pretty well for us. Voice recognition is becoming a second choice away from the noisy hubbub, though I am admittedly slow getting going with it. (No excuse… just one of those cool things that keeps getting put off while life pressures edge it from the top of my To Do pile.)
It isn’t perfect, our little pen tablet arrangement. But, desktops wouldn’t be either, at least in our world. Plus, we never have an issue with turning our backs upon our patients to address the PC, something a desktop might require and which could sometimes be dangerous with our “rambunctious” clientele.
For now, I stand by — and with — our pen tablets.
From the trenches…
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey
Dr. Gregg Alexander is a grunt-in-the-trenches pediatrician and geek. His personal manifesto home page…er..blog…yeh, that’s it, his blog – and he – can be reached through http://madisonpediatric.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.