How one CIO successfully deployed 3,000 iPads

Project has 'exceeded expectations' at Ottawa Hospital

Topics: Data Strategy, Information Technology, Electronic Medical Records Strategy, Emerging and Disruptive Technologies, IT Infrastructure, Mobility

December 2, 2011

TabTimes Daily this week examined how Ottawa Hospital CIO Dale Potter's decision to deploy 3,000 iPads streamlined hospital work flow and boosted staff engagement.

Potter joined the staff at the hospital—which has four campuses and 1,300 beds—in 2008 after working in IT for manufacturing operations in Europe and Canada. Early on, he shadowed hospital clinicians to better understand how staff interacted with the hospital's computing resources.

According to Potter, the hospitals' workflow was broken—staff printed stacks of patient charts before their rounds and sometimes left the point of care to enter data into computer systems. Meanwhile, mobile computing, computers on wheels, and several tablet PC solutions had failed to meet the staff needs.

"Two main issues with the previous generation of tablets were boot times and battery life," Potter says. "Until a year and a half ago, there wasn't a solution practical and elegant enough to support their mobile work flow."

The iPad launch
In spring 2010, Potter asked four staff members to pilot the new iPad in hopes that it would provide the mobility solution the hospital needed. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback about device, Potter took a "huge plunge" and invested in more than 1,000 iPads, later assembling a 70-member team to develop a clinical mobile platform. In January 2011, the hospital launched the new system, which allows physicians and nurses to access read-only clinical data from their device. 

Although Potter acknowledges that eventually he will have to shrink his internal team, he has challenged them to create one application per month based on clinician suggestions. For example, the team has created a pain management app that allows patients to indicate locations and intensities of pain. When the clinical parameters are high, the system alerts the appropriate physician.

The hospital's 12,000 employees now use 3,000 iPads, TabTimes Daily reports. "We proved [the iPad] could work. But now the innovation is coming from the grassroots level, from the physicians themselves," Potter says, adding, "I have attending physicians who say they feel more engaged than they have in the 25 years they have been practicing."

Tablet's limitations
Potter says iPad deployment has exceeded his expectations so far; however, he notes that the hospital still is grappling with a few challenges. For example, since the iPad primarily was designed for consumer use, administrative rights features are not strong enough for the hospital's needs. Meanwhile, input capability continues to lag—Potter notes that the staff are piloting real-time speech-enabled documentation, so physicians do not have to carry mobile keyboards (Raths, TabTimes Daily, 11/28).

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