One of the biggest theoretical advantages of bringing IT into the patient care environment is using technology to replace human labor. This is more difficult than it sounds. Some argue that EMRs are actually a step backwards in this regard, reducing health care professionals to data entry clerks. One of our biggest labor costs is paying office staff to enter patient demographic and clinical information into the EMR. IT options are available to automate that process. We have had very good success with our web portal, which allows patients to enter their own data directly into the EMR from home.
But that same technology has failed miserably in our waiting room. We have tried desktops in private areas and tethered laptops but patients will not use them. Tablets would probably work better but we have not tried them because of the expense and the risk of theft. Several commercial solutions are available that use tablets.
An Atlanta-based company, Digital Assent, has a solution and a business model that may help with both of these issues. The Patient Pad is a tablet device that works well in the waiting room but its operating system renders the device useless outside the wireless connection. The device itself must be seen to be fully appreciated. It’s great for its intended purpose but you would never want to take it home.
The Patient Pad is dedicated to patient check-in and data entry in the waiting room. Like the web portal patients enter their own demographic and clinical data into the Patient Pad, which is then pushed directly to the EMR. The data input screens are customizable to match the practice’s existing data structure. When data entry is complete the patient may keep the Pad and review relevant educational and marketing materials based on the information they entered.
Equally innovative is DA’s business model. The physician gets the tablets for next to nothing. The revenue comes from sponsors who place ads and educational material on the device. We are currently working with several pharmaceutical and hearing aid companies to get material relevant to our practice on to the Patient Pad.
To this point DA has only worked with private pay cosmetic practices. We are the first practice in regular medicine to try the Patient Pad. As always we are implementing gradually, doing the patient interface first and then building the EMR interface. So far it has been well received and is doing far better than the desktop workstations or laptops ever did.
I will post an update after we are fully implemented.
I have no financial interest in Digital Assent.