Microsoft continues to challenge iPad from underdog position

Though Microsoft's tablets have some useful features that can't be found on Apple iPads or Android tablets, they might not be enough to convince physicians and EHR companies to ditch their iPads, according to an article in The Motley Fool. Microsoft efforts to push Windows 8 tablets into the healthcare industry face a "tough uphill battle" on two fronts, the author argues.

"The first is its fragmented hardware base," states the article. "Like Android, there is a wide variety of Windows 8 tablets on the market. Different hospitals will invariably select different tablets based on pricing and features. This makes it difficult to create apps for a variety of hardware configurations."

As the article asserts, the iPad is now "an industry standard tool," with most medical reference and mobile EHR apps being developed for the popular Apple tablet. According to the author, there are three primary reasons for this: Apple's standardized system, its security, and its popularity.

"Compared to the fragmented world of Google Android tablets, Apple's iPad offers the same experience across all units in the same generation due to its identical hardware and software configurations," states the article. "This has made it much easier to develop, test, and market apps specifically designed for the iPad. The iPad is considered more secure than Android tablets, which persistently suffer from security flaws."

In addition, the author points out a recent report by Manhattan Research which found that out of the 72 percent of physicians currently using tablets, more than half of them prefer the iPad. Nevertheless, Microsoft does have some important features compared to iPads, states The Motley Fool article.

"Most desktop-based EHR programs are installed on Windows PCs at hospitals," the author argues. "Therefore, Windows 8 tablets allow clinicians to run EHR applications natively in a Windows environment, creating an identical experience to the one found on the desktop version. Windows 8 tablets also notably allow multiple windows to be open simultaneously--a feature that iPads and Android tablets lack."

When it comes to security, the article emphasizes that Windows 8 tablets have enhanced security features, such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, which is used to encrypt hard drives and USB flash drives. 

Another notable feature mentioned in the article is Windows To Go, which allows physicians to carry the entire operating system on a bootable flash drive. "Therefore, the entire OS can be easily carried and executed on different computers, laptops, and tablets, and could be helpful in working with restrictive BYOD (bring your own device) restrictions at some hospitals," according to the article.

Moreover, Windows 8 tablets are getting support from health IT giant Greenway. The article reports that in May Greenway announced that it was developing a Windows 8 version of its mobile EHR program, PrimeMOBILE. Last June, Microsoft integrated Greenway's PrimeSUITE EHR into its HealthVault EHR platform. 

"Greenway's support is critical for Microsoft's Windows 8 tablets to establish a firmer foothold in the healthcare IT market," argues the article. Still, Greenway has been losing market share to its rivals, declining 9 percent between July 2012 and May 2013 and currently only ranked 11th in overall EHR market share.

A recent article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that the use of iPads for certain tasks in an internal medicine residency program fell short of initial high expectations, although users reported overall satisfaction with the tools. Residents who reported more "hype" prior to iPad deployment were more likely to use the iPad to enter orders, according to researchers. Moreover, those residents who used Apple products prior to iPad deployment also were likely to report higher usage of the iPad.

To learn more:
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