ACT Health this week revealed it was investigating the potential use of tablet devices in Canberra Hospital, an initiative which will involve examining Apple’s hyped iPad device and other platforms.
Although denying any official trials of the iPad, acting chief information officer Judy Redmond said the department had just initiated a project to examine the functionality of tablet devices both for clinical and administrative use.
She said the iPad was just one of the options available and that ACT Health would be investigating and trialling a number of different tablet devices. Redmond said introducing tablets in an enterprise environment was a challenging practice which involved managing security and updates, workflow changes and the cost of data usage.
In the specific case of a health environment, other issues were also at stake, such as addressing health and safety concerns to ensure patients’ confidentiality.
“At this stage ACT Health sees the potential for tablet use with mobile clinical staff,” she said. “This would include, but is not limited to, clinicians working on wards in theaters and in our hospital and community clinicians providing care in the patients home”.
Redmond added the department has enabled the use of wireless access which is due to be installed later this year. As part of the ACT Government network, ACT Health relies on ICT service organisation, InTACT, which presently does not provide network access to unapproved personal devices. However, she said the ICT provider was working with ACT Health in addressing policy to support personal devices on the network into the future.
Although Redmond said the trial had just started, she said preliminary results were showing a few limitations in the deployment of the tablets, in terms of performance, usability and business application portability. Furthermore, without mentioning any specific product, she said the operating system often wasn’t conducive for tablet use, while new operating systems brought a number of issues, as they required training for staff and current business application compatibility.
“Business applications that require the use of a keyboard are often difficult to translate to tablet use,” she said. “Small devices that are the most portable often have a very small screen that makes it to difficult to read. The challenge [is] finding a device that is light but also large enough to be easy to read and responsive”.
Besides the limitations encountered so far, Redmond said there were some tablet applications which ACT Health believes would bring improvement to both the clinical and administrative functioning of the department. She said the type of applications which support improved communication and secure access to information were ideal for the deployment of tablets within the health system.
“This includes administrative applications such as email, diaries, scheduling, internet to more clinical-focused applications accessing ward, bed and patient results/information,” she said.
ACT Health is thus joining QLD Health and SA Health on the list of departments which are trialling either the iPad or other tablets; however with significant jurisdictional differences; QLD Health is trialling the iPad and other devices for administrative use only and SA has enabled its executives to rely on the iPads as e-reader mostly.
Image credit: Apple