[W]ith the latest Apple iPad® 3 just being released, the furvor continues to drive the tablet into the heathcare IT space. What once was a computer-on-wheels (COW) is being replaced with the ubiquitous wi-fi enabled tablet. Some things to consider while making the decision between devices for use in a medical application.
- Screen Resolution – while the resolution of the new Retinal display of the iPad3 are astounding at 2048x 1536 pixels, the difference between a DICOM monitor and an ordinary PC monitor is one of degree; although the basic technology is identical, such a medical display monitor is of necessity much higher in terms of resolution. A 2MP monitor (two megapixels) is generally considered to have the lowest acceptable resolution level; a 3MP monitor is the next step up, while the 5MP monitor offers the highest resolution at the lowest cost, providing the most “bang for the buck” (6MP monitors are available, but are currently twice as expensive the 5MP monitors). Pixel Count, expressed as Megapixels, is simply multiplying the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels. It’s exactly like calculating area. A 3 MP camera has 2,048 (horizontal) x 1,536 (vertical) pixels, or 3,145,728 pixels. Most tablets express the fact that they are “non-diagnostic” in quality but theoretically the iPad®3 would support diagnostic quality images with it’s 3.1 MP display
- Connectivity – Most of the latest tablet devices support 802.11g wi-fi connectivity, but only a handful support the faster 54 mbps 802.11n standard. While this may not be considered essential, please note that some access points will slow-down to accommodate g and n communications. There are several tablets on the market that support the 802.11n standard. For medical devices requiring peripheral connectivity, one should consider Bluetooth. Bluetooth supports a very short range (approximately 10 meters) and relatively low bandwidth (1-3 Mbps in practice) designed for low-power network devices like handhelds. There is a healthcare Bluetooth connectivity consortium called the Continua Health Alliance specifically for connecting medical devices via Bluetooth.
- Battery Life – Most of the newer tablets offer Li-Ion batteries and many of the larger manufacturers offer charging docks to allow ease-of-charging.
- Security – Tablets are way too portable – consider the use of RFID technologies to track and alert when a tablet device is removed from the premises.