Hospitals slow on tablet implementation

The enthusiasm for iPads in healthcare these days is palpable. Hospital CIOs like John Halamka sing the device's praise, while health systems like The Ottawa Hospital and even the Department of Veterans Affairs are rolling out thousands of tablet devices as we speak.

But it turns out they're in an extreme minority yet. Less than 1 percent of hospitals actually have fully functional tablet systems, according to West Wireless Health Institute, Kaiser Health News and NPR report. Even at pioneering hospitals like UC San Diego Health System, fewer than 10 percent of physicians actively are using iPads more than 18 months after the hospital started rolled them out.

"We're really lagging behind in the U.S. in using electronic medical records on mobile devices like iPads," Jonathan Mack, director of clinical research and development at West Wireless, tells KHN.

The big problem: EHR systems are slow to develop tablet-friendly apps for their systems, KHN notes. Those that do, thus far--such as Allscripts, Epic and Centricity--provide read-only access to EHR data, but little input functionality, writes iMedicalApps' Satish Misra, MD. It's a troubling discovery for hospital CIOs who have already spent millions implementing EHR systems over the past few years.

At this point, most hospitals are stuck porting their EHR systems with Citrix or VMware, which is usually clunky and far slower than a natively developed tablet app. Developing a native app--for either vendors or hospital IT departments--would require "a lot more money," Mack says. "When you look at a health system that has bought into an EMR, they're not ready to turn the boat around and start over.

That's not to say that hospitals won't ultimately be won over. The big question now, though, is how long will it take for hospitals to catch up? And who will pay the fare to get them there?

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out this iMedicalApps piece
- see SmartPlanet's column