Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 Makes Health Care Inroads

Microsoft's latest tablet resonates with medical experts, and the company racks up health care customers.

Surface Pro 3

Surface Pro 3, the newest x86-based tablet offering from Microsoft, is attracting the health care industry's attention.

It's no secret that the Surface Pro line of Windows tablets is aimed at businesses, albeit not exclusively. According to Cyril Belikoff, senior director of the Microsoft Surface division, the device is already making some early waves among health care companies.

Belikoff announced in a June 12 blog post that Pittsburgh-based University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an integrated, nonprofit health care delivery and financing provider, is among the device's early adopters. UPMC is deploying 2,000 Surface Pro 3 tablets, which will run the organization's Convergence application and give doctors "quick access to the most important information they need about every patient they see," he said.

Microsoft's decision to avoid the mini-tablet market, at least for now, has yielded some early customer successes in health care.

Instead of unveiling the highly anticipated Surface Mini during a May 20 press event in New York, the company showed off the Surface Pro 3, effectively doubling down on enterprise tablets that run full-fledged Windows. The tablet, which sports a larger, 12.1-inch touch screen, was billed as a laptop replacement that fills the app-compatibility void between tablets and notebooks.

It's a tactic that resonated with UPMC after hitting some technical barriers in an attempt to bring iPads into the mix.

Rebecca Kaul, UPMC's chief innovation officer, admitted that her group encountered difficulty developing its Convergence application for the iPad and making it work in an enterprise setting. In the end, it offered read-only access to electronic health records, making it necessary to embark on a multistep process involving Citrix sessions to record data.

"We weren't able to achieve a lot of the functionality—such as interfacing with the legacy systems—that we could achieve with the Surface on Windows 8," she said in a statement. Ultimately, the Surface won out because of its "right balance of features in terms of size, form factor, and ability to disinfect."

UPMC joins Seattle Children's Hospital in early Surface Pro 3 deployments. The hospital plans to leverage its touch-friendly interface to manage electronic medical records while complying with stringent health care data regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Seattle Children's Hospital CIO Wes Wright said in a statement that the tablet will replace its laptops. "We look at weight. We look at battery life. Application compatibility. It was kind of a no-brainer for us."

Belikoff asserted in his post that the new Surface's roomy screen "delivers more screen real estate for clinicians to access the data-intensive interfaces found in many full electronic medical records (EMRs) software packages—versus forcing them to use stripped-down 'apps.'" In addition, the included stylus "facilitates enhanced clinical note taking," he said.

Surface Pro 3 is gaining a following beyond health care, informed Belikoff. Other high-profile early customers include BMW, Coca Cola and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...