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Healthcare Input: mission impossible?

Image of paper records stacked up.I am perplexed. Will we ever find the right input device for clinicians? The ones we have are too big, too small, too slow, too unreliable, too nickable or may carry bugs.

  • CoWS (computers on wheels) are too unwieldy;
  • Tablet PCs are too heavy;
  • PDAs are difficult to read, especially for the longsighted; and
  • Handwriting and speech recognition are not accurate enough.
PDAs seem the most popular, but even they can carry infection (an Alaskan doctor cultured Hepatitis B from a PDA) and are likely to be stolen. See this article on HIMSS Daily News for a good summary.

I am partial to a scrap of paper and a pencil when working out, especially at the initial stages. Perhaps I am unable to escape habits learned at school, or maybe I find screens restricting. I like a mixture of words, diagrams and my own heiroglyphs; though some people don’t have this problem and cope easily with what I see as restrictions.

What is the incentive for clinicians to give up paper and pen? What is the right device for them? Could it be Microsoft’s Origami? Or do our clinicians need to change their habits and embrace new ways of working?


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» Healthcare Input: mission impossible? Possible solutions from FutureHIT - Health IT, biomedical research informatics, the Long Tail, scenario planning, and social networking phenomena
I was just about to write a post reviewing my Nokia 770 as an input device for study coordinators and investigators in clinical research, when I noticed a post in Colin Jervis' Future Health IT blog entitled Healthcare Input: mission impossible?. Colin... [Read More]

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Finding the right data device for clinicians resembles the search for the Holy Grail, as I have commented before. I continue to like pen and paper-which provides me with the freedom to use a mélange of words, diagrams and runes.... [Read More]


You raise an interesting point here Colin. The real value of PDAs in clinical practice is mainly as an information retrival device.

They are limited by the low screen real estate and limited handwriting recognition, and it is unlikely that they a viable tool for data input beyond simple entry.

Until a device that possesses the versatility of paper:

ie: it can be grasped, carried, manipulated, marked, laid out, and shared, has symbolic value, and can be used immediately

arrives, I suspect the pen and paper / keyboard will be here for a while.

Why are you looking for a one-size-fits-all solution? Most clinicians don't need anything and the ones that do need a tool that is fit for purpose? This is a basic principle of design ... start with the need and design to meet it.

Comment deleted accidentally. Reposted by FHIT

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