Tablet Handwriting Recognition

When I first saw a Tablet PC I was impressed and amazed at its ability to recognize handwriting. It is a fabolous invention and really incredible technology. More importantly I saw the tablet as a great way to sit back and read your favorite websites kicked back on your couch while connecting wirelessly to the internet. I finally got a tablet and have been less than impressed. I still find the technology quite impressive, but I find myself cursing the tablet over and over again when trying to do simple data entry. I think the problem is the precision that is required in my searching and surfing habits. You can’t type in and get to That small inconsistency ruins my whole surfing experience and while Windows has made a good attempt to resolve these issues I still get frustrated using it. At least when I’m searching google and I spell something wrong google tries to correct my poor tablet handwriting and correct it for me (which I often utilize).

Overall I just find tablets more frustrating than useful even if the technology is impressive. I know there are quite a few tablet spefic EMR’s out there that must have taken this into account. I just don’t see how you can manage if it is converting your handwriting into text. It makes sense if it leaves it as handwriting and doesn’t try to understand your scribbles.

I do have to add one caveat to tablet use that I think is a viable reason to have tablets. Electronic Signatures. If (and when) EMR programs support electronic signatures using a tablet PC then even if you don’t use all the other bells and whistles it would be worth having a tablet to avoid more paper.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Like you, I found myself cursing the tablet PC when first using them. My first “real” tablet experience was with an IBM X41. The “Wow!” factor wore off quickly, and I became disheartened with using the handwriting recognition as a primary means of input. I found myself using the tablet in laptop mode more often than not. While it makes a convenient ultraportable laptop, it is more expensive than a non-tablet ultraportable.

    I then moved along to the Motion LS800 and LE1600. Having ordered a convertible keyboard, I was using the LE1600 the same way. I tried to avoid the LS800, or used it with a bluetooth keyboard.

    I realized that if the “computer guy” was not using a tablet as designed, then I would never get my users to do so. I took the LE1600 on a weekend trip (requiring notetaking), and left all keyboards here. After spending that weekend forced to use the stylus and HR, I can now use a tablet very comfortably. While the HR does not get trained to you, you end up getting trained to it. You realize what letters it struggles with in your handwriting, and you begin to subconsciously eliminate it. I get excellent recognition now, and I do it without effort. Getting HR to the point where it is natural is where most people get frustrated and give up.

    A caveat worth mentioning is that some people have handwriting so horrible that there is no hope.

    Michael Wilson

  • Medscribbler might give you a better experience as it is designed to leave as much as possible of the information that has to go into the patient record in the EMR as handwritng WITHOUT conversion. Most people want to convert everything when they get a Tablet but the question is why? Handwriting and text both are forms of saving information – the drawback to handwriting is the difficultly in other people understanding the GUI 🙂 But in most cases in an EMR only one person has to understand it, the person who wrote it – so no problem (usually) Medscribbler also does convert but only when it makes sense – a drug name or a Dx – because others read these – but the recognition becomes better because the EMR is told to expect a drug name. This does not mean it is perfect – personally I can never get it to accept hyperlipidemea – because I spell it wrong every time it makes the l a 1 with a buch of other letters – in this case the TIP helps out. In everyday use Medscribbler is still faster than macro templates.

    Also, contrary to what some think – bad handwriters often get better recognition results – the recognizer has a heavy velosity factor making printers often less successful.

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