5 reasons hospitals should buy tablets for physicians

Buying physicians at your hospital an iPad may seem like an expensive way to solve workflow problems, but it has paid off in spades for Dale Potter, CIO of 1,300-bed Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada. His implementation arguably is the largest roll out of hospital-owned tablets in the northern hemisphere, and he insists that hospital ownership of the devices is the right way to go.

Last week, we brought you the flip side of this argument--Deaconess Health System CIO Todd Richardson has pushed a device-agnostic strategy, allowing physicians to use their personal smartphones, tablets and other devices for work purposes.

Potter's process, though, has taken him in an entirely different direction. FierceMobileHealthcare talked with him about that process, and why his hospital owns more than 2,000 iPads, has ordered 1,800 iPad 2s for physician use, and may roll out even more as the year goes on.

Here are a few of his reasons why:

Speed: To stay ahead of the competitive curve, Potter and the hospital administration made a command decision to move quickly on its tablet roll out early last year.

"We want to be recognized as a top 10 health center in North America...so I told the board chair that we had to go fast," Potter says.

Less than a year later, the word has gotten around about the health system's tech-savvy policies.

"Medical students are fighting to get into our institution because of our technology," and real-time data delivery, Potter says.

Controlled development: Potter wanted control over the apps and other software physicians were using on the devices, and has even hired a whopping 120 app developers to create them. The team already has created a mobile electronic health record, and a dozen in-house apps, with more on the way, he says.

Maintenance, device control: Having to support and maintain multiple platforms and unregulated apps are two of the headaches Potter says he avoided by purchasing the iPads outright. His IT department has a set configuration for every machine, and is able to have standard remote wipe, log-ins, screen shut-down times and other security protocols. Updates and upgrades also are far simpler to manage on devices.

Device safety, security: Despite obvious concerns about physicians losing, damaging or otherwise compromising hospital property, providers have proven themselves to be solid stewards of the expensive devices, Potter says.

"Of thousands of devices we have out there, we've never lost one," Potter says. "They are so cherished by our providers," that if physicians leave the device at home, "they'll drive home to get it because of how much time it will save them that day," he says.

Cost savings: While the $600-plus price tag for each device may seem hefty, it's less than a PC or laptop, he points out. "The PC avoidance costs alone were enough to pay for [the iPads]," he says. And that's significantly less than other medical instruments that physicians carry with them each day.

That doesn't count the "hours per day" that physicians tell him their iPads are saving them in documentation and administrative time, he adds.

To learn more:
- here's our previous coverage of the iPad rollout earlier this year
- check out MobileHealthcareToday's background on the Ottowa iPad experiment (reg. required)