After seeing the not-terrribly-positive comment on my Surface vs. iPad post last week and reading more about the Surface, I got to thinking over the weekend and realized the Surface can’t really be compared to the iPad because they represent different categories of devices. Just as a tablet can’t be compared to a netbook, the Surface and the iPad can’t be directly compared. Sorry for figuring this out after my post. The Surface is trying to define define a new category, call it a productivity tablet or a tabletized notebook or something else (I’m not a marketing guy).
What I also realized is that the announcement of the Surface has reinvigorated the MS/PC vs. Apple/Mac debate, bringing with it years of baggage and emotion. Most people see the debate in a binary way, and Apple’s approach doesn’t really help in this. In reality I guess it makes sense because going either all MS or all Apple makes life a bit easier. Or you could go all Google I guess, not to have them left out. I don’t have any Google OS-driven devices, at least as primary devices, but I do use Google for all mail, contacts, calendars, and web browsing.
Then I read the recent National Physicians Survey from Sharecare and saw what seem like relatively low numbers for both smartphone (20%) and iPad/tablet (12%/9%) use in clinical settings. This post is not about smartphones but the 20% seems very low to me, especially given the use of tools like Epocrates. Maybe my opinion is skewed a bit because many of my physician friends are young and either in training or pretty close to training?
But, looking at iPads and Tablets in the survey you see numbers that are pretty low, at least lower than I think some of the commentary would lead you to believe. To me those iPad/tablet numbers (12%/9%) seem exactly where I’d peg them. My guess was that ~15% of physicians use tablets in a clinical setting, with the vast majority of these being iPads. I’m not sure what the other 9% of “Tablet” users in the survey are using but this bumps up the overall tablet usage to close to 20%.
10-20% for tablet usage is still pretty low overall, especially with the investment in and potential of mobile. So what is going to drive up that percentage of clinicians that use tablets in a clinical setting. First, it has to fit into and improve the clinical workflow. That sounds like a broken record, to me at least. I had to say it because everybody says it and most of the time I don’t think much thought goes into what that actually means. It’s like saying our technology is “robust”. Clinicians are a mobile workforce, whether it be clinic to hospital, office to ASC, house to house, or even room to room. Clinicians can’t sit still to care for patients. Well, maybe radiologists and some telemed practitioners have patients come to them but these are obviously the edge cases.
It’s because of this mobile nature of practice that mobile technologies are perceived to have such great potential with clinicians. And since EMR is what you gets you the stimulus bucks, that’s the obvious choice for how we can empower physicians with mobile. I really don’t think it’s going to be full fledged tablet EMRs (viewing + charting), like drchrono, that are going to raise the percent of physicians using tablets in practice. And I don’t think it’s going to be a full fledged EMR running on a device with 10.6 16:9 inch screen, USB port, built in keyboard, or better enterprise management (that was what I was trying to say in my last post). What I wonder is if people think the tablet (either how Apple or MS defines it) is ever going to represent a standalone EMR product (I know, I know, drchrono already has this as a product)?
I think the real power of tablets, especially in healthcare, is not as mini-versions of computers. I don’t think mobile is going to be where users fully document patient encounters in an EMR. I think the real potential of mobile and what doctors are looking for from it is 1) mobile access point for summary views (including imaging and monitors), especially if you can aggregate content from multiple sources, 2) order entry (including Rx), 3) messaging, 4) access to clinical references, and 5) educational material for patients. That’s why I really like what AirStrip is trying to do as a mobile EMR extender.
Now finally tying back to my post from last week about the Surface and iPad in healthcare. My conclusion is the same, the Surface is not the disruptive mobile force that is going to drive up mobile user adoption in healthcare, but the reasoning behind my conclusion is different. It’s not because the iPad is superior (I’m betting the Surface and iPad are are superior to each other for specific features), it’s because the tablet, as a category, is more valuable to clinicians than the new category that Microsoft is defining with the Surface. Tablets, at least how we defined them before the Surface, accomplish what I think needs to be accomplished to drive adoption. Time, and the associated apps to enable the functionality above, will define the mobile clinician experience.