The benefits of bringing tablets into your practice

Utilizing electronic information and mobile devices in your medical practice can come with many benefits: patient activation, clinical reference and access to electronic medical records (EMRs). You may have even begun integrating technology such as this with your current medical practice software or billing options. However, the use of tablets also changes the way your practice interacts with HIPAA rules.

HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rules require that your practice be responsible for keeping patient information safe. These stipulations require that administrative, physical, and technical safeguards are in place to protect both electronic and paper health records.

Once you have decided to incorporate the use of tablets and mobile devices into your practice, you need to undergo a security risk analysis to ensure that your privacy safeguards are in compliance with HIPAA and any other applicable laws. Despite the rules and regulations put in place to protect your patients and your business, you will still benefit greatly from incorporating this technology into your everyday routines.

EMR access
The main area where tablet usage and HIPAA rules intersect is through EMRs. The HIPAA Security Rule requires EMR software and administrators to provide even more protection to patient information than that of paper records.

  • Having patient medical records accessible via tablet allows doctors and authorized personnel to review patient charts and histories quickly and efficiently during office visits.
  • Many hospital EMR systems enable doctors to access patient information over the web. Physicians can review patient notes, order tests, and arrange follow-ups from any location.

Clinical reference
A recent survey of over 3,700 physicians found that 19 percent of them already utilize a tablet device in a clinical setting, and 35 percent more plan to begin using a tablet in their practice in the next few years. (Tablets Set to Change Medical Practice, QuantiaMD, June 15, 2011). Besides accessing EMRs, physicians are finding tablets to be valuable reference tools that assist them in both diagnosis and treatment while meeting with patients.

  • Quantia’s survey found that 69 percent of physicians use their tablets to look up drug and reference material. Having drug dosages, formulae and interactions at their fingertips helps physicians save time in the exam room while giving their patients the best possible care.
  • Physicians can use their tablet to assist in diagnosing and selecting treatments, as well as learn about new treatments and research to keep their care up-to-date and effective.

Patient activation
Tablets are not only for physicians’ use when brought into your practice. When put in the hands of your patients, they can help educate, collect data and enhance the patient-physician dialogue.

  • While waiting in the exam room, patients can use tablets to watch educational health videos – 27 percent of physicians who have incorporated tablets into their practice use them to look for help teaching patients about their conditions.
  • A pilot study at the Duke Breast Cancer Clinic found that utilizing tablets to review their current health during an office visit helped 74 percent of patients remember symptoms, and helped 32 percent discuss with their physician medical issues they might otherwise have forgotten. 

The percentage of physicians who use tablets in their practice may soon reach 50 percent, according to QuantiaMD. Tablets help physicians make educated decisions about diagnosis and treatment through access to EMRs and clinical reference materials.

They also help to educate patients and make them more engaged and involved in their medical care. By implementing HIPAA-approved security measures and undergoing a comprehensive security risk assessment, you can make it easier for your practice to enjoy all the benefits of tablet usage while still ensuring the security of your patient information.

Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for Resource Nation. She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as medical billing software.