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Tablets will be a fixture in many doctors’ offices in 2012, research firm NPD Group reports. About 75 percent of small and midsize medical practices plan to buy tablets over the next year, according to a recent survey by the company.

The results were part of NPD’s third-quarter "SMB Technology Monitor." Released Dec. 29, the report found that in small and midsize businesses (less than 1,000 employees), 73 percent planned to buy tablets over the next year, up from 68 percent in NPD’s second-quarter report.

Small medical practices tend to buy tablets at a faster pace than larger enterprises, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.

"You tend to see small businesses looking at those products and getting excited with the potential because you can implement things a little faster when you’re an under-50-person company," Baker told eWEEK. "I think that’s why we see it happening faster in a doctor’s office than it would in some other organization."

Medical practices anticipate spending on average a cumulative total of about $6,800 on tablets within the next year, NPD reports.

As far as larger medical facilities, less than 1 percent of hospitals are currently using tablets, Kaiser Health News reports.

The Apple iPad is the tablet of choice for hospitals, based on a recent study by Manhattan Research. In addition, a survey by research firm Aptilon says 70 percent of doctors prefer the Apple iPad over other models. Hospitals are increasingly considering allowing patients to use their personal tablets despite security concerns.

"The level of security that a big company or hospital would feel, compared with the level of security a consumer wants, is pretty different," said Baker. "It takes a while for the corporate mentality to take over and figure out how to implement those products into the security regimens that a bigger organization’s going to have."

An iPad application from electronic health record (HER) vendor Dr. Chrono, called OnPatient, allows patients to check in to a doctor’s office on their Apple tablets rather than fill out paperwork that may be illegible and lead to duplicate data entry. Data flows into Dr. Chrono’s cloud platform.

Another tablet called the PhreesiaPad also allows patients to check in and has a slot for credit cards. The device supports WiFi to retrieve data from EHRs in the cloud.

Small and midsize medical practices as well as small and midsize companies in general are more interested in consumer tablets such as the iPad, said Baker.

Hospitals and larger enterprises are less likely to adopt consumer tablets due to concerns such as security, said Baker.

"In general, small businesses more broadly adopt those consumer products than larger companies," he said.

Even with the popularity of the iPad, several companies are manufacturing rugged models that can survive in harsh work environments. They can withstand extreme temperatures and survive fluid spills or drops to hard surfaces. These vendors include General Dynamics Itronix, Xplore Technologies, Motion Computing and Panasonic.

It’s not an iPad or a rugged unit, but even the officially discontinued HP TouchPad may live on in health care. HP has opened the webOS platform to outside developers, and researchers at Stanford University are using the TouchPad to control Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanners.

For hospitals and other industries concerned with security, future Windows 8 tablets could have appeal, Baker predicted. "Whenever the Windows 8 products begin to come out, there’s probably going to be some interest there," said Baker. 


To read the original eWeek article, click here: Doctors’ Offices to Emerge As Heavy Tablet Buyers in 2012: NPD Group