Most medical facilities have a “system” in place. For example, when a patient comes in for an appointment, she sees a medical assistant, followed by a nurse, then a doctor and finally, a specialist. The “system” — whatever it is — is probably decades old, and it probably worked relatively well until recently. The way of doing things in the past looks decidedly different from the way things are in the present, and that old “system” is no longer the most efficient way to communicate information about a patient to everyone on her health care team.
As anyone currently enrolled in medical school, nursing school or trying to discover more about a master’s degree in nutrition and wellness can tell you, technology is taking over. If your “system” still requires the use of paper charts, laptops or stationary computers to record patient data, the time has come to jump to the front of the line in health care technology and upgrade to tablets. This technology is so smart that it lets doctors go retro and “write” notes again, communication errors are lessened, and time and money are saved. Tablets truly can help make good health care even better.
Tablet technology allows for doctors and care providers to literally write (with their fingers) once again. For many care providers, writing notes was a way to ensure that the narrative of patient care didn’t get lost in the collection of patient data. For many doctors and nurses, a patient’s story of illness is as important as the data that surrounds that story. Tablets can allow for aspects of a patient’s information to be gathered — the who, what, when, where and how that data supplies — and the story of that data in the patient’s words and their care provider’s words. Information like age, race, prescriptions and dosage and the specifics of a diagnosis can all be recorded in a way that makes data usable and interpretable — not just for the patient to whom it directly applies, but also for researchers. The information is valuable to public health and for determining the treatment of different pathologies. With tablets, this technology-driven aspect of patient care can still accommodate the old-school style of recording so that the arc of a story of pathology and health doesn’t get sidelined or overlooked.
It’s undeniable that the mobility and portability of tablets make their use an asset in health care settings. Unlike paper charts that stay in the patient’s room, charts and data put into tablets can be accessed anywhere and at any time by the entire team that is attending. And being able to chart and record data from anywhere is an added benefit that saves a lot of time. Whereas a desktop- or laptop-centered charting environment often requires double duty — after writing in a patient’s paper chart, a nurse or doctor still has to record the information again (or get someone else to do it) on the computer — tablet recordkeeping is a one-time deal that stays with the record maker and the patient, while updating the rest of team at the same time.
From simple data recordkeeping to the collaboration and communication they help facilitate, the applications used by doctors and nurses on tablets are transforming how information is gathered, interpreted and applied in patient care. From apps on interactive anatomy for the budding med student to peruse to , the application that allows doctors to dictate notes, write prescriptions and manage patient files with an app that stores high-resolution X-rays in the cloud, so that a doctor and team can always have access to them, the application world of tablets is rich, useful and available at almost all times.
As health care costs continue to grow, anything that can save a provider and patient money is going to be valuable. Tablet portability and mobility already save time in data collection and interpretation, and as with most industries: The more time that gets saved in providing health care, the less money gets spent. This, in addition to the capability of a team of professionals how have better communications and less errors as a result of being a tablet-friendly culture, means that upgrading to a “system” of tablet-driven recordkeeping will not just make good financial sense, it makes good patient care sense as well.
: Candace Jones is a contributing writer and iPad owner who recently completed a master’s in nutrition and wellness.