One thing I often forget when thinking about mobile computing in healthcare is that it’s not just the smart phone. Certainly the smart phone is incredibly powerful and has a strong place in the future of mobile health. However, it has its limitations. Often you just need more screen real estate to do what you need to in healthcare. This is particularly true on the enterprise healthcare side of the world compared to the consumer side.
This is what makes the Windows 8 and iPad tablets such an important part of the mobile health ecosystem. In fact, I think these tablets could do more to transform healthcare than their smaller smart phone counterparts. In fact, these tablets are more powerful than your smart phone in every single way except size.
I was reminded of the power of these tablets when I got the chance to use the HP ElitePad. It was my first time to really dig into a Windows 8 tablet and I was really interested to see how well it performed.
My intrigue in the Windows 8 tablets had been originally sparked by Fred Holsten, CIO of Intermountain, who told me that in their hospital they didn’t allow Android tablets, but they did allow Window 8 tablets. They had real security concerns with the Android tablets, but felt confident in the security of the Window 8 tablet. Plus, he even was fond of the way that the Windows 8 tablet handled application management.
With this in mind, I wanted to see how the HP ElitePad felt in my hand. From a pure hardware perspective, it was well designed and as comfortable as any other tablet of similar screen size. I also had the HP ElitePad expansion jacket. I had mixed feelings about the expansion jacket. The tablet felt pretty bulky with it on, but I also felt the jacket seemed to be a pretty good protection for the device. In the end, I usually leaned towards using it with the expansion jacket off. Either way, the tablet definitely passed the look and feel test.
When I first started actually using the ElitePad, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the interface. It took me a little while to get use to the separation of apps from the more standard windows interface. Plus, I had to get use to swiping the side to pull up the menu. After using it a little bit I really grew to like the interface. It balanced the touch interface applications with the ability to run any regular windows applications quite well.
I could see how this balance of applications could work really well in healthcare. Many healthcare applications won’t be ported over to become a native tablet application. At least they won’t be moved over in the near future. So, there’s a need for devices that can handle both native and legacy applications. The app store was a bit disappointing, but I think that will continue to change over time. Plus, when it wasn’t in the app store, I could find a regular windows application that worked fine. Not to mention most of what I needed was also available in a web browser.
I do wish that there were some native external keyboard options for the device, but a simple USB keyboard worked just fine and are available in every shape and size. I didn’t try using voice recognition on the device, but it has a nice microphone and would have likely worked well. However, sometimes I just like a nice keyboard for data entry. I did use the built in camera and microphone on a Google Plus hangout and that worked perfectly. You can easily see a telemedicine visit happening with this device.
Overall the device worked really well for me. My only real complaint with the device was the charger connection. The charger doesn’t really snap into the hole and so it’s hard to know if the charger is connected properly or not. Plus, the charger can bend back and forth in the charging hole. I often had to check to make sure that the device was indeed charging. It usually was plugged in just fine, but it would be much nicer if the charging plug kind of locked into place so you knew it was connected properly.
Overall, I can definitely see a place for a Windows 8 tablet like the HP ElitePad in healthcare. I think this is particularly true in the hospital and practice environment where they want to use their existing security software to manage their computing devices. However, with the built in camera and microphone, I can also see a number of telemedicine applications really liking this device as well.
This post is sponsored by HP Healthcare, however opinions on products and services expressed here are my own. Disclosure per FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255.