Health IT

Can Microsoft’s Surface tablet reach iPad status in healthcare? This doc says yes

This is the story of a doctor and his tablet.

Frustrated with the way that computers-on-wheels got in the way of eye-to-eye contact with patients, Dr. Nick Patel went searching for a tablet. Like most physicians, the internal medicine doctor at Palmetto Health in Columbia, South Carolina, initially gravitated toward an iPad. But he found that it lacked the horsepower to handle the hospital’s Cerner EMR system and required remote sign-on, which ate up time.

So he decided to try Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet. In a video later put together by Microsoft, Patel says it provided more speed to access a patient’s chart and compatibility with the EMR.


When he reached out to Microsoft to share his excitement about Surface, the company agreed to loan tablets to Palmetto to run a three- to six-month pilot with 30 physicians that will look at patient and physician satisfaction and impact on productivity with the tablet. Microsoft also seized the opportunity to use the Palmetto story to build a case for clinical use of the Surface, which has a tough battle to fight among a profession of Apple loyalists.

But it seems to be putting up quite a fight. In the video, Patel says he sees an average of two more patients per day, and a colleague says he sees better documentation of quality data without taking time away from the patient. Other reviewers of the tablet have noted its excellent build quality – an important thing for on-the-go physicians – and the fact that it uses the Windows 8 operating system and can run PC-based software.

Some health IT companies are banking on the success of the Surface, too. Cerner and Epic have already created EHR interfaces for the Surface and Windows 8, and mobile health company AirStrip is busy working on a Windows-compatible version of its platform that facilities the exchange of clinical information across medical devices, electronic medical records and patient monitors.

[Image credit: Flickr user sam_churchill]

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