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Tablet PC vs. Desktop PC for EMR
To Tablet PC or not to Tablet PC?
Probably for years people have envisioned their doctor swooping into the exam room holding some sort of handheld or pocket computer (Star Trek style), quickly and efficiently tapping away while doing a history and physical, then coming to a diagnosis, clicking a few keys, then a magic prescription prints out and the patient is on their way! Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. There are many computers out on the market that could get the job done, but there are arguments for and against using Tablet PCs vs. desktop computers for EMR use. These have to do with EMR workflow as well as ease of data entry and comfort for the physician.
First to consider is portability. Do you want to be carrying around a 3-6 pound laptop/tablet pc from room to room? Are you afraid that you will drop it? Will you be able to concentrate on tapping the tablet and conducting a patient interview at the same time? Do you prefer the convenience of a full size keyboard an monitor mounted in a familiar place in the exam room? (are you afraid that patients will mess around with it when you are not in the room?) Make sure the computer is located in a way that you can still maintain some eye contact with the patient as you don’t want to have your back turned to them as you’re talking and typing at the same time.
Next, you may consider the costs involved. If you work in a variety of different patient rooms, or travel frequently, you may want to consider using a Tablet PC, even though the cost per unit is more expensive. Expect to spend between $1200 and $2500 for a quality Tablet PC, and you’ll probably need to upgrade it about every 2 years or so. Desktop PCs are considerably cheaper, you can probably get by with entry level desktops with moderately sized LCD screens for around $400-$600 each depending on vendor and options. If you only have a few exam rooms to cover, desktops may be the way to go for you. Desktops also allow the added benefit of ease of use of other desktop peripherals, if you want to connect a webcam or digital camera it may be easier to do so without worrying about carrying around cables and wires.
Finally, can you get use to tapping the Tablet PC screen and using either voice recognition or handwriting recognition to do at least some of your progress note? (some Tablets are convertible, turning into a regular laptop as well).
Some pros to using desktops include: lower cost, full size keyboard and mouse, no batteries to run down, faster wired network (if desired)
Cons: Patients may break them, need to log out of the computer each time you leave the exam room
Pros to using a Tablet PC: very conducive to some EMRs that use extensive point/click templates, portable, more like using a paper chart than a desktop computer, can review patient chart anywhere in the office
Cons: Dropping your Tablet PC turns it into an expensive paperweight, if TabletPC crashes or breaks may be unable to chart for some time, wireless network (speed and security concerns), Looks cool to the patient