If you’re a healthcare professional and you are thinking about buying a new tablet computer for work, here are some things I’d recommend you consider before selecting a new device. Perhaps the first question you should ask is this. Is the tablet I’d like to buy “clinical grade”? What do I mean by “clinical grade”? Well it doesn’t necessarily mean a device that is specifically built for use in hospitals and clinics. Such devices are available, but they generally cost a considerable premium over devices that are sold to consumers and general business users. Depending on your role in healthcare and where you work, you may not need a tablet computer that can be thrown across the room or submerged under water and still survive. But there are certain attributes that I would recommend you keep in mind when selecting a device that’s right for you and the way you work.
Clinical grade promises the performance, reliability, and security needed to maximize caregiver productivity and ensure the highest quality of patient care. To achieve that, look no further than the newest generation of tablet computers that are now available from a wide variety of manufacturers, including Microsoft, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Panasonic, Fujitsu, and Motion.
Using Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 tablet running Windows 8.1 as a great “template” for what we mean by “clinical grade”, here are some of the things I think you’ll want to consider when buying a tablet computer that’s going to be used in a clinical setting.
Clinical Grade Considerations
Surface Pro 2
Other Product ?
Keeping it Clean
Devices must be easily sanitized to prevent the spread of infections—without damaging the device or voiding the warranty.
Certified for cleaning with Sani-Cloth Plus, CaviWipes, Covidien Alcohol Prep Pads, or any similar wipes with <70% IPA solution.
Intel Core™ Processor
Intensive healthcare software requires enterprise-level processors for better & faster data access to support improved patient outcomes.
Powered by Intel’s core i5 processor to run even the most demanding clinical apps, while maximizing battery life.
Healthcare apps often require keyboards to quickly access menus and allow for free text entry.
Multiple quick-connect keyboard covers and dual-stage kickstand easily convert Surface from tablet to laptop.
Used all day, every day, devices need to withstand inevitable drops and spills
Solid magnesium casing & impact-resistant glass.
Protected health information (PHI) and personal data must be safeguarded
Enterprise-grade security with TPM, BitLocker drive encryption, & Secure Boot to help keep information safe.
Ports and Connectivity
Needed to connect to peripherals such as external monitors, print documents, and transfer content
Includes a full-size USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort, and micro-SD card reader. Can also connect to Miracast displays for wireless screen display.
Screen Size and Resolution
Clinicians need to be able to see multiple apps at the same time – e.g. your EMR and a drug reference
Full HD screen enabling snap mode to run multiple apps and applications at the same time.
Full Versions of Healthcare Apps
When it comes to maximizing clinician productivity, read-only or limited functionality companion apps simply don’t cut it.
Runs full versions of all Windows desktop apps your healthcare business relies on, and enables on-screen keyboard and ink recognition for them.
Stylus and Inking
Capture electronic signatures or write progress notes without compromising interaction with patients
Active digitizer w/ Palm Block for precise stylus input while maintaining face-to-face contact.
Especially for corporate-owned devices that may need to be shared across multiple caregivers to maximize the investment
Easily add, maintain, and switch between multiple caregiver accounts with easy device manageability.
The above may not include everything you’ll want to consider when purchasing a tablet for clinical use. Depending on your clinical workflow, you may want to think about a convertible tablet or maybe even a light yet powerful, touch-enabled ultrabook. However, the information above should prove helpful no matter what device or devices you ultimately select. Why not print this out and take it along with you when you go shopping for the best device to use in your clinic or hospital.
(Special thanks to my colleagues Gareth Hall @ WW Health and Greg Davidson @ Surface for their contributions to this post.)
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft
I am testing a Surface device for use in Hospitals and found ease of carrying and holding the device a concern for Care Givers.
On battery and performance I find the device impressive in comparison to other Tablets.
Thanks for your comment. Glad to hear that your initial experience with Surface has been positive.
As for carrying and holding the device, there are several different options...depending on your preferences. I really like the Incipio Capture case (http://bit.ly/1bgGRCN), which has an integrated handstrap. Other customers like using some sort of shoulder strap accessory. The Surface docking station is also a great accessory to keep in each of the exam rooms (http://bit.ly/M8oDHA). We also have mounts that will allow you to easily use Surface with standard 3rd party wall mounts, arm mounts, or medical carts.
But how can you use a non-certified tablet in a medical environment? Things like EN60601 safety testing are required for medical devices. What's the hospital's policy on bringing in uncertified devices?
Thanks for writing. Hospital policies can vary from institution to institution and country to country. However, in most hospitals, medical device regulation doesn't extend to computers (desktop, tablets or smartphones). There certainly are requirements and guidelines in many institutions for keeping such devices clean and sanitary, and most companies that sell such equipment into healthcare environments offer guidance on how to clean and/or sanitize these devices and peripherals.
Bill Crounse, MD