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Yesterday, I wrote that healthcare CIOs should take a closer looks at Windows* 8, given the operating system’s flexibility and improved functionality in dual compute model environments (keyboard and mouse/touch screen). As a follow-up, I reached out to Brock Morris, CIO at Seattle-based Pediatric Associates, for his take on how tablets and software upgrades go together in healthcare.

 

Pediatric Associates, a privately owned pediatric practice with 80 providers across seven clinical locations, sees about 250,000 patient visits per year. The practice was running on Windows 7 with no plans to upgrade anytime soon, but when their EHR vendor introduced a mobile app, Morris wanted to know how the OS upgrade – combined with the mobile EHR app – might help Pediatric Associates deliver the best patient care possible.

 

With assistance from his vendor, Greenway Medical Technologies, Brock commenced a Windows 8 pilot program that was limited in focus to three key areas: newborn rounding at local hospitals, seeing admitted patients at the local children’s hospital, and doctor-patient interaction at each of Pediatric Associates’ clinics.

 

 

Physicians making rounds had ready access to patient chart and research information, enjoying a high level of functionality and security. As an added benefit, staff were able to create electronic charts for newborns right in the hospital, before they were ever seen at the clinics.

 

The mobile app combined with the intuitive nature of the Modern UI in Windows 8 also benefited doctors seeing admitted patients at the local children’s hospital, granting the same levels of access, functionality, management, and security while freeing them from the need to log-in to a hospital computer and chart in the main EHR system.

 

Although the pilot program has only been in place for approximately nine weeks, a look into whether the use of this combined mobile app and system upgrade actually provides efficiencies at each of the practice’s clinics appears promising. The ability to switch between touch screen and desktop environments has added choice and flexibility to the physicians’ quiver.

 

These advantages, as well as inherent benefits such as UEFI, which eases the CIO’s struggle to keep PHI off devices, are all worth noting. However, the challenge confronting CIOs is to determine the appropriate use cases for Windows 8 before making the upgrade.

 

“We’re really at the beginning stages of looking at how it’s going to work for us and making sure we only apply it in areas where we see a clear benefit,” says Morris. “But we have several physicians working on Windows 8 now, and they’re having good results.”

 

Pediatric Associates anticipates keeping its Windows 8 devices in play and continuing the pilot for some time. In the weeks ahead, the practice will be evaluating a potential use case for its 120 medical assistants (MAs). Since the work MAs perform tends to be more templated in nature, Morris thinks it could be a good match. He’s also looking into leveraging Windows 8 devices to improve patient education in the exam room.

 

In the meantime, the practice plans to continue working with its EHR vendor, providing feedback that will help build out the functionality of the mobile app to enhance workflows and improve patient care.

 

Pediatric Associates’ start-with-the-task-you’re-trying-to-perform approach falls in line with industry guidance. As Mark Blatt, M.D., Worldwide Medical Director at Intel, reminds us: as tablets take over more and more of the healthcare marketplace, software applications purposefully built for touch environments are likely to lag devices.

 

“The industry is going to keep extending capabilities on the hardware platform, so it’s going to take a while for the software to catch up and deliver the experience we’ve unmasked with the features in the hardware,” Dr. Blatt says. “Don’t ask, ‘I’ve got tablets, what can I do with them?’ Identify the critical activities to your organization and proceed from there.”

 

What are your healthcare organization’s plans for leveraging tablets at the point of care? How do you fold in software upgrades to limit disruptions?

 

As a B2B journalist, John Farrell has covered healthcare IT since 1997 and is Intel’s sponsored correspondent.

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