Microsoft Surface tablets: A natural fit for healthcare

Microsoft Surface tablets: A natural fit for healthcare

Summary: The upcoming Surface tablets have Windows inside, and that makes them a perfect fit for healthcare providers looking to upgrade their medical practices.

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MSFT Surface tablet
Healthcare has always been an industry ripe for using tablets. Workers in healthcare are constantly flitting around the office, and having constant access to the medical practice's network is a big benefit. The highly portable Surface tablets on the way from Microsoft could revolutionize these offices, if developers jump on the Metro bandwagon.

I have recently visited two medical practices that are entrenched in the tablet philosophy. The two offices are very different, but have each settled on the old Tablet PC to mobilize the workers providing healthcare.

These offices are using the old convertible notebook with Windows 7, tablets that can swivel the screen to expose a full laptop. The workers carry them all day, entering pertinent information at each stop which is instantly updated to the patient's record.

In one practice the nurses and physician assistants use old HP Tablet PCs, while the doctors carry Motion slate Tablet PCs. The nurses I interviewed always use the HPs in laptop mode as they find typing easier to enter information on the run.

The doctors use a pen with the Motion, primarily to access information in the patient record when they come in for the examination. The two doctors I spoke with hated having to use the pen to manipulate the interface.

These practices are a perfect fit for the Surface tablets. The keyboard covers can be used by those who are more comfortable with typing for data entry, and the touch tablet for those like the doctors who just need to tap and access information.

What needs to happen to get these healthcare providers rolled over to the better solution is for the developers behind the practice management software in use to convert it to the Metro interface for the Surface. It might take a fair bit of work to make the proper conversion, but the target market is huge and flush with funds.

I suspect in a year or two we might see a lot of Surface tablets when we visit the doctor. It's a case of the perfect tool for the job, with everyone winning. All day battery life and a computer that is easy to carry for extended periods. Throw Windows into the mix and it's almost perfect.

If I had a company with medical practice software, I would divert every resource to getting it perfected for Windows Pro/RT tablets. 

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Topics: Microsoft, Health, Mobile OS, Mobility

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39 comments
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  • From the article: "All day battery life"

    Link? One of the failings of Microsoft's premature media event for the Surface tablets was the absence of specs. Perhaps, as a ZDNet blogger, you have access to them. Please, share.

    P.S. I assume you're blogging about a tablet running Windows 8 Pro (Intel-based) rather than Windows RT (ARM-based).
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • No data from MSFT yet

      But in the case of Windows RT, we have good experience with ARM-based devices and battery life. I look for similar battery life from the Surface RT tablet.
      JamesKendrick
      • Windows RT? The next question is

        Whether the apps that healthcare organizations currently run on their Windows 7-based tablet PCs will run on ARM-based, Windows RT tablets. Or, stated another way, how soon will these apps be ported to Windows RT tablets?
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Bingo

    You got that point right. Surface Pros will have the natural ability to fill most of the needs of verticals like Health Care, Automotive, Airline etc.
    Ram U
    • Those are the only segments Windows Tablets already sell in.

      The problem is that Microsoft isn't any better off if the Surface gains traction there. If anything, Surface success will come at an OEM's expense. Now, an article about Surface RT as a killer Point of Sale solution might be interesting.

      If Microsoft was really smart, they'd take some of their nice pile of cash and buy a bank, then ODM a card reader, and bundle a cellular modem. Then release an integrated retail device for small/medium businesses that incorporates POS, inventory control, CRM, and ERP. Let an entrepreneur run his store, restaurant, photo studio, instant-print shop, etc from a Surface RT front-end and Windows SBS back-end with direction connection to his card servicer and business banker.

      If you're going to own your stack, you might as well think outside the [computer] box.
      matthew_maurice
      • Why

        bundle a cellular modem, so you can be stuck with one cell provider(US phones). If you need cellular, it has a USB 3 port for that. But if you in a doctors office or hospital, you don't suppose to use your cell anyway so wifi comes in play!
        stm24
    • You missed a key point

      James made a point about a Surface tablet having a battery charge duration lasting all day. Well, that might exclude a Surface Pro. An ARM based Surface RT would fit that description and that is why James speculated that it might take years to port legacy health care software already in use to an ARM compatible Metro version.
      kenosha77a
      • blah

        of course it will take years, most of them haven't even gotten off their arses to start switching to 64-bit. But unlike 64-bit, this is a new interface with an app store so if they don't get their act together and bring their software into the modern age, someone else will.
        mayhem07
    • Software = utility

      People buy computers not because of hardware or OS specs but because the device can run software that does something useful.

      Where is the Surface software that will attract these doctors?
      khurtwilliams@...
      • That's what James is imploring in the article

        These vertical market developers need to 'surface' their apps on the Surface!
        Patanjali
  • Two letters Big meaning

    I thought the most poignant line of the article was ''if developers gemeanings Metro bandwagon...''

    Big word that ''if''.
    costa k
  • So what?

    Windows Tablets have always (if only) done well in verticals like Medicine. The problem is that they've never gone beyond that. The Surface making in-roads at the hospital and doctor's office does Microsoft no good whatsoever. In fact, if MS Surfaces take take market share away from the one place OEMs have been able to sell Windows Tablets, Microsoft will be less well off.
    matthew_maurice
    • Expand and solidify the vertical market

      For VM integrators, the Surface, or any similar Win8 device, will provide a lighter and more flexible offering than the bulky Win tablets their customers have now.

      That means they will have a better offering come hardware refresh time, and offer a better solution than any competitors that don't move along.
      Patanjali
  • Tablets that fit into lab coat pockets fit health care

    The 7" form factor fits in one hand and can be used like a cell phone with NFC for fast data transfer. Where mobile means walking around in a Gbyte/sec WiFi field, a 7_8" tablet is just right. Only receptionists will use Ten inch tablets.
    jnffarrell
    • Whose hand?

      Not everyone is a 175lb 5' 11" man.
      khurtwilliams@...
  • I agree

    I agree with your assessment except would they need an app if they go with the Win 8 Pro version which should be able to run the same programs they have on their HP laptops now. Either way, I am very much looking forward to the new Surface, particularly the Win 8 Pro version. It marries the tablet with the PC and that is something I have been wanting since using the current versions of tablets.
    necessaryevil
    • Not optimized for touch operation

      Legacy Windows apps will not work as well in a touch tablet environment as those new ones written to do so. That's what needs to happen for not just healthcare as covered in this article, but in all apps for the Surface tablets.

      Conventional Windows apps have already failed in the tablet world. New tablet-specific apps are vital for the success of the Surface, IMHO.
      JamesKendrick
      • Legagy Windows apps can still be used, and future versions of the apps can

        be converted or "optimized" for touch operation.

        There is no need to wait for the touch versions, since, whatever was being used by doctors's offices, will still work in Windows 8 Pro. The touch versions will come, and the Surface tablets will be ready, but, they will still be ready for the non-touch and stylus operation.
        adornoe
        • hardware

          So ... what you are saying is that Windows 8 on Surface will succeed where other Windows tablets have not because the touch screen doesn't matter as much as having a lightweight device?
          khurtwilliams@...
      • Experienced touch users can select smaller target areas

        When I first got touch screens, I found it difficult to accurately touch small buttons.

        After a few months, I found that getting the right small button among many was a lot easier.

        However, one of the general touch maxims by which Win8 is designed is that it is a lot easier and quicker to identify and touch a large r area than a smaller one. That is why the UI design guideline incorporate a lot of 'white' space around selectable areas.
        Patanjali