Tablet Computing in the Wild
So it wasn’t an iPad, but it was a Tablet Computer I saw in use recently. I’ve predicted that we’re going to see this appliance used more and more in our daily lives, and I want to share a quick look at how this one was being used.
First, let me elaborate on how the day started…
I have a 17 year old son. (And a daughter, but that’s another story.) For those of you that have teenage children you know the three words “Dad, watch this!” can swiftly move you from backyard shenanigans to Emergency Room visits in a matter of minutes. While this recent experience didn’t necessarily start that way, it certainly did end that way. What began as a stump removal project involving large, heavy tools and a winch, culminated in several hours in the ER, twelve stitches on the knee and a $75 hit to the wallet. I’ll leave the gory details to your imagination, but will say that it was only a flesh wound and the kid is doing fine.
Now, to the ‘Tablets in the Wild’ part of the story. We’ve been to this hospital’s ER before. Several times before, but, again, that’s another story. Checking in usually means sitting at a desk with an administration staff member while my kid is being tended to in a treatment room. The staff member gets all your information, prints out a stack of paper, compiles a folder, then you get to go see what’s going on with your kid. During the visit, the attending physician and nurses write notes and fill out forms in this folder. Afterward, you sign a couple places on the stack of paper, bring the folder back to the admin staff, sign some forms, wait for things to get entered into the computer and printed, empty your wallet, then you’re free to go.
This visit, first one there in a year, was a little different. Instead of the mandatory parent visit to the admin desk, we were shuffled directly to a treatment room where, while my kid was being looked at by a nurse, the admin staff member used a tablet computer to enter insurance details and filled out electronic versions of the forms I was used to seeing. I still needed to sign a few forms, buy I used a tethered stylus and signed electronically on the tablet. Once my kid was stitched up and we were preparing to leave, I signed a couple more forms, then they swiped my credit card in the built-in reader on the tablet, tapped a print button, and directed us to stop off at the window on the way out to pick up prescriptions and other visit documentation. When I reached the window, everything was printed and ready to pick up.
This tablet computer was running Microsoft Windows with custom hospital applications. It had at least 1024×768 screen dimensions and the device itself was probably just a little larger than a 15″ laptop. It had a tethered stylus, a built-in credit card reader and looked like it had contacts on the bottom edge to support cradling for recharging the battery. Overall it had a Fischer-Price look to it, all white with a molded-in handle at the top edge. I suspect it would have to resist being cleaned thoroughly so it must have been rugged enough to support a wet rag cleanup.
This is just the type of situation that tablet computing excels at. The staff member with the tablet was in and out of the exam room, visiting with the doctor and nurse, seeing other patients, and was portable with the tablet just as if it had been a stack of paper. Before you think that a stack of paper could be more practical, think of the value of having up to date information about patients in the computer the moment the information becomes available. This means that someone coming to visit a patient would be able to go to the information desk and be told exactly where the patient was, and what was happening. Having the tablet computer available during the check in and check out processes meant I didn’t have to leave my kid to spend time at a check in desk while he was seeing the doctor. There’s a tremendous amount of value in that.
Have you seen tablets in the wild? I’d like to hear about it. Let me know in the comments section.