Tablet PC catches CIO's eye

Mention toys from Microsoft and the Xbox undoubtedly springs to mind. But it's another device that's on the way that has one CIO excited.

Mention toys from Microsoft and the Xbox undoubtedly springs to mind. But it’s another device that’s on the way that has one CIO excited.

The tablet PC, based on Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC edition, will be available in about a month. Microsoft is pitching the tablet, variants of which are being made by several vendors, at “corridor warriors” — people who spend much of their days going from meeting to meeting taking handwritten notes, but who would also like to check email or send the occasional instant message.

Hospitals might be considered the perfect tablet PC environment. According to one of the vendors with a tablet PC ready for release, Acer, Microsoft has been showing them off to medical staff.

But the CIO of Waitemata and Counties Manukau District Health Boards, Phil Brimacombe (pictured), can see them having more application outside, rather than inside, hospitals. Brimacombe says wirelessly networked tablets would be useful tools for nurses and other therapists who work in the community.

“I can see the need for devices that will allow them access to electronic patient records wherever they might be,” he says.

Laptops are in use by some community-based health workers, but they’re limited to downloading case details before setting out from the office. A wireless connection to the hospital network means information would be right up to date, Brimacombe says.

Whether tablet PCs, which will have a likely starting price of about $5000, fit the bill is something the hospital boards would have to develop a business case for.

“Better delivery of care in the community is important to us,” Brimacombe says, and on that basis, tablet PCs would be considered. But he says the price “would be a barrier”.

Handheld devices with cellular connections allowing browser-based access to hospital systems might be a more affordable option.

As for equipping “corridor warriors” with tablets, Brimacombe says 30 laptops in a wireless LAN that have been deployed by the Counties-Manukau board adequately serve the needs of clinical staff.

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