UPMC plans to roll out 2,000 Microsoft tablets to make EHR access truly mobile

UPMC is using a new software platform - Convergence - on Surface tablets in a pilot project with cardiologists.

UPMC is using a new software platform – Convergence – on Surface tablets in a pilot project with cardiologists.

Apple had the early advantage in the BYOD trend at hospitals. The iPad was the tablet of choice among doctors when the cool factor was the most important criteria. Now the need to actually get work done has taken top priority and Microsoft is aiming to make Surface the tablet of choice.

The Surface Pro 3 was announced last month and goes on sale next week. CNET gave it a good review and several large organizations – Louis Vuitton and Coca Cola among them – have announced plans to use the tablet.

UPMC is announcing today that they are joining that list with plans to buy and roll out 2,000 Surface Pro 3 tablets over the next year. The health system  also has built an interface for the Surface that connects doctors directly with all the EHR systems the hospital uses.


UPMC’s Technology Development Center  is testing Convergence  with its cardiologists currently.

Dr. Rasu Shrestha is the vice president of medical information technology and a practicing radiologist at UPMC. He sees the combination of the Surface Pro 3 and the new software platform as a way to shift the doctor’s focus away from technology and back to the patient. He said doctors can stop piecing together information from multiple systems and get back to patient care.

Shrestha said that the name of the platform actually describes what it does: brings together the past, the present and the future.
“We have the past in access to the EHR legacy system, the present in mobility and touch form factor, and the future in giving access to clinical care pathways and newer care models, which is the essence of value-based healthcare.”

The TDC team originally built Convergence on the iPad.

“The visualization layer was great, but it didn’t work. We have to take a big pause in all of our development work because it didn’t work in the clinical setting,” he said.

Shrestha used the example of a patient presenting with chest pains to explain the limitations of the first version of Convergence.

“I noticed that the patient was on a med that i needed to discontinue immediately, but I couldn’t do that on the iPad – it was a composite of stand alone apps at best,” he said.

Shrestha said that the big change with using Convergence on the Surface was that it was built to be an actionable layer in his day-to-day workflow.

“Now when round on my patients, I sit down and look at the entire patient story. When I need to put in an order, I swipe straight into the EMR, directly into EPIC or Cerner, hit the order button and then swipe back into Convergence,” he said.

Rasu Shrestha, MD

Rasu Shrestha, MD

Shrestha said that in the pilot the clinicians have embraced the form factor because they can go straight from working at desk with the tablet in a dock to seeing a patient.

“Another big theme is contextualization – the cardiologist sees what he needs to do,” he said. “We can also turn the tablet to the patient and show visualizations to illustrate how certain choices will affect their health.”

UPMC plans to roll out Convergence to more departments, including internal medicine and hospitalists.  The company also plans to sell the platform to other hospital systems in 2015.

Rebecca Kaul, Chief Innovation Officer for UPMC and the President of UPMC’s Technology Development Center, said that the team looked at other devices in the Windows 8 realm, but chose the Surface because of the right balance of features in terms of size, form factor, ability to disinfect.

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