Rx for Health-Care Apps: Tablets or Blades?

Tablet PCs and desktop blades-two very different emerging PC technologies-are competing with each other for a share of health-care IT dollars.

I spent the weekend working on my presentation for the Ziff Davis Business4Site conference. (Shameless plug: The conference is to be held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, where the weather doesnt suck, on June 15-17.) At the conference, Ill be talking about best practices and case studies surrounding tablet computers, desktop blades and other emerging technologies.

As I was building the presentation, I discovered that theres a conflict between these two emerging platforms that isnt at all obvious on the surface: Tablets and desktop blades are competing against each other in the health-care industry.

Fujitsus WinPad (similar to tablets but much more expensive) used to own what is now the tablet computer market, and its strongest market was health care. The reason was that it was great for forms and for tracking medical records.

Additionally, the WinPad could capture a doctors signature for prescriptions or medical procedure orders. It fit almost seamlessly into what was, and for the most part remains, a very paper-intensive industry.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about Hewlett-Packards recent entry into the PC blade space with its Blade PC bc1000.

Another company, Motion Computing, has been giving Fujitsu a run for its money recently in the health-care market. Motion, a startup basically made up of ex-Dell employees, has built a solid solution that it sells through Dell and Gateway (among others), and is giving Fujitsu a wake-up call it probably didnt see coming.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Motions latest Tablet PC.

One of the things that had prevented the broader implementation of tablet applications in health care had been the price of the hardware. Now, with tablet PCs costing over a third less than their WinPad counterparts, theyve started to take this industry by storm.

However, even though tablets are much less expensive than their WinPad counterparts, at about $2,000 each, they arent cheap. And the changes in the rules surrounding the protection of medical information over the past few years have raised concerns about the security of information stored on tablet PCs.

Several hospitals have reported a theft problem with tablet computers. The data on the devices is typically encrypted, and as the use of wireless networks increases, less information is actually retained on the devices. But still, the loss of the device can be disruptive and could create a problem if the related health-care organization was audited and asked to "prove" the stolen data on a stolen device was still secure.

Next Page: The health-care industry likes desktop blades because theyre cheaper and more secure.