Tablet Manageability, Security Concern Health Care Professionals: Dell

Health care professionals are interested in accessing applications on tablets but have concerns about manageability, security and total cost of ownership, according to Dell.

NEW YORK — Security, manageability and total cost of ownership are key concerns as health care professionals choose tablets for their organizations, Dell executives noted at a Feb. 19 press event at the Dell Solution Center here.

In a study commissioned by Dell, Harris Interactive interviewed 204 health care IT decision makers from Dec. 27, 2012, to Jan. 17, 2013, and uncovered some concerns about managing mobility and compliance with regulations.

"It's this manageability issue that's the key thing, particularly in health care," Dr. Andrew Litt, Dell’s chief medical officer, told eWEEK. Managing IT resources is more of a challenge in health care because hospitals lack a surplus of IT staffing found in the defense industry and financial services, said Litt.

Of the 204 health care respondents, 105 work in a facility that uses tablets.

Tablets were mostly used for accessing EHRs, according to the Harris survey. The survey found that 66 percent of respondents used tablets to access and update patient information and 30 percent used them to find medical reference information.

Meanwhile, 44 percent noted that health care applications could be used on their tablets but with limited functionality.

Of the respondents surveyed, 65 percent purchased mobile apps for tablets to replicate PC functionality, but 41 percent said some apps exist that tablets can't access.

The best way to minimize total cost of ownership is to choose devices that integrate with existing tools, according to 56 percent of respondents in the Harris survey.

On Feb. 25, Dell introduced a new Latitude 10 Windows 8 tablet with enhanced security features along with a wireless dock supporting the WiGig multi-gigabit tri-band WiFi standard. The new Latitude 10 incorporates a fingerprint and smart card reader to help organizations manage security.

Tablets make it possible for radiologists to view lab images anywhere they can connect to the Internet, but this convenience also carries security risks if a tablet is left behind in public, said Litt.

"The good thing about tablets is they're light and they're easy to bring to the point of care; the bad thing is they're light and they're easy to get stolen," said Litt.

Still the capabilities of making the data available on a mobile device at the point of care make security efforts worthwhile, he noted.

"It doesn't help if data is sitting in the nurses' station, i.e. the laptop, and I'm at the bedside with the patient," said Litt. "I need that data with me."

Dell plans to integrate the Latitude tablet with the security capabilities of its Mobile Clinical Computing desktop virtualization and identity access management platform, said Litt. The Single sign-on feature available through the platform could help doctors keep information on the tablet secure, Litt noted.

When using the device in a hospital environment, doctors want to be able to return to a specific point in an EHR for one patient after tending to the needs of another patient, said Litt.

Another study, "Dell Latitude With Windows 8 vs. Apple iPad," looked into how health care professionals can manage their workflow on the two tablets. Produced by Principled Technologies and commissioned by Dell, the study found a 93.9 percent savings in total management costs in using the Latitude 10 over the iPad. These costs included tablet deployment, printing, software updates, battery replacement and restoring of the device.

In addition, with its Active Directory-based management tools, the Latitude 10 required less time for a hypothetical hospital to perform tasks than the iPad, according to the survey. The iPad required more than 10 hours to update software, while the Latitude tablet took about 3 hours.

To manage their workflow, health care professionals aim to use the same applications on a tablet that they do on a PC or laptop. As they switch to tablets, the Windows 8 environment on the Latitude 10 could bring advantages over iOS on the iPad. Brian Pitstick, executive director for Dell tablets, noted the ability to use a stylus and a full keyboard attachment with the Latitude to run legacy health care applications.

"We believe that Microsoft will help influence the software vendors to create health care and other vertical market applications that are touch-friendly," Pitstick told eWEEK. "But for companies that either have a set of those applications they don't want to convert as fast, you can still run those legacy applications on the Latitude 10 and they may not be as touch-friendly, but with the stylus we have and some of the keyboard options you can still get access to those same applications."

Although keyboards and stylus pens can also be used with the iPad, the Apple tablet has limitations as far as clinical applications, according to a January 2012 Spyglass Consulting Group report. Software will need to be rewritten to work on the iPad and incorporate gesture-based computing, natural language speech recognition, unified communications and video conferencing, Spyglass reported.