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Physicians discuss the pros, cons of tablet computers
e-Reports, Sept. 19, 2011
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Nationwide, more of your colleagues are discovering that tablet computers are useful tools in patient care. In a 2010 report by Physicians Practice, nearly 18 percent of 1,400 physicians surveyed said they used tablets. Another study by UBM Medica found that 38.5 percent of physicians surveyed said they plan to buy an iPad or something similar this year.

Tablets are a cross between a personal computer and a smartphone. They are attractive in the medical office because they take up less space, are lighter than laptops and can be carried like clipboards. Additionally, they can provide access to an electronic health record system (EHR) and other data at the touch of the screen.

Three physicians explain what they like and don’t like about their tablets.

David Pletzer, M.D.
Pletzer, M.D.

In 2004, Dr. Pletzer’s practice tested two or three different tablet PCs before choosing one that also would be compatible with their EHR.

“The tablet size is just right,” he noted. “You can hold it like a chart, so it’s less intrusive, and the information I pull up is so fast and complete. Laptops are bigger and heavier. You can’t get a lot of information in smartphones.”

The tablet allows Dr. Pletzer to review and insert notes into medical records and prescribe medications. He also receives emails from the pharmacy alerting him to patients who need refills.

“I can do my work with the tablet anywhere,” he said. “It makes work less stressful.”

Jeb Teichman, M.D.
Pletzer, M.D.

Dr. Teichman uses an iPad at home and a Lifebook®, a tablet/laptop combination, in his practice. The device is easier to use with the practice’s new EHR. It not only allows him to access a patient’s medical record but also e-fax prescriptions.

“We have used our EHR system for two months,” explained the pediatrician.”I carry the Lifebook® from patient room to patient room. Eventually, we will be able to e-prescribe.”

“I love my iPad,” he said. “It has replaced my PC. I use it to check both my personal and office email, and refer to resources such as Epocrates®.”

Kenneth Elek, M.D.
South Bend
Pletzer, M.D.

While there are definite advantages to tablets, Dr. Elek noted some of the disadvantages.

“You have to be careful typing on the screen keyboard,” he noted.

“It’s easy to make mistakes, especially if you aren’t a good typist.”

Dr. Eleck utilizes integrated voice recognition for dictation on his Motorola Xoom tablet but notes that the iPad requires a separate application, which means copying and pasting your work.

“Voice integration is getting better,” he said. “But it takes about two years to get it fully trained to your voice, shortcuts and commands. Any mistakes made during dictation require going back to the first paragraph and changing it. Sometimes, it’s just easier to type things in.”

He advises that tablets are a great tool to review documents and suggests trying them out before buying one.

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