“The Dr.’s Tablet Will See You Now”
Health care is as much about Information Management as it is about patient diagnostics. Whenever a patient interacts with a health care professional, there is a record made of the encounter.
This benefits the patient, because his course of treatment is tracked and monitored, helping to ensure that no steps are missed or forgotten. The same benefit reaches to the Health Care professional as well, enabling them to more efficiently do their job and treat more patients.
Electronic computers have become more than labor saving devices, they are an indispensable tool of everyday life which have practically replaced the work that has traditionally been done using paper and pencil. In many ways the tablet computer is latest step in the evolution of portable computing. On the surface they would appear to be a natural fit for medical professionals.
Doctors, COWs, and Tablets
Not everything is quite as it appears, however. Tablet computing has not been as universally accepted in the hospital environment as would be expected. Dr.s can and do make use of computers to record their notes of patient examinations, for example. Over the last decade or so the most common interface has been with “computers on wheels” or COWs, or some sort of laptop application.
COWs and laptops are subject to the obvious limitations of full sized (or nearly full sized) Windows based computers; they are somewhat slow in addition to their physical size. However, they are thought to be very secure. In fact, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is based on full sized computers.
Portability And Accountability
HIPAA is primarily designed to protect patient confidentiality and privacy. Medical facilities which break privacy protocols can find themselves subject to fines. Until recently, the most popular of the tablet computers, the Apple iPad, was considered to not be HIPAA compliant.
Medical IT professionals site the statistic that 40% of all HIPAA Privacy breaches are the result of mobile device usage. However, closer examination reveals that the greatest portion of these breaches are from unencrypted lost or stolen laptops.
As it turns out, thanks to native security features of the iPad, the tablet is more than HIPAA compliant, and Android based tablets have the potential to be even more secure in the medical environment.
As Electronic Health Record Systems (EHRS) come on line, less and less patient data is actually stored locally. In many cases, patient data is being handled by a Cloud based system, usually incorporating a Software as a Service (SaaS) application handling not only record management, but security as well.
By Pete Knight
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