When your office uses EHR, keeping office forms paperless makes sense.
By using tablets, your office staff can have patients fill out forms that are already electronic and enter EHR charts directly—eliminating paper waste and the need to scan forms manually.
When making the switch to tablets, be sure to consider the tablet’s compatibility with your EHR, follow HIPAA rules carefully, and learn how to properly care for your new office equipment. Following these tips will help your practice use tablets safely and effectively.
Buying and incorporating a new tablet
Planning ahead will help make the process of implementing tablets easier. According to the American Bar Association, using personal devices to access EHR systems is becoming increasingly common among healthcare providers, but should be avoided because of the potential information security risks. ² If you are buying a tablet that will use patient information, do not permit personal, non-practice use by your staff or yourself.
It is best to designate your patient intake tablet for authorized office-use only. Your office may need a written policy in place that defines and restricts use, so everyone in your practice understands proper use of mobile devices.
Before you buy, check your intake software and EHR’s requirements—make sure you know your tablet will be fully compatible with your software and will operate with few problems. Contact your EHR vendor to find out how your tablet will interact with your EHR software and ask about potential security issues and other risks.
Follow HIPAA carefully and check for mobile device compliance issues
Chiropractic offices must follow HIPAA already in everything they do, but tablets and other mobile devices present unique risks and concerns for protecting patient privacy that do not necessarily apply to devices such as desktop computers. Tablets are easily stolen and transported off-site. Your office must have proper security measures in place.
The federal government’s HealthIT website has several recommendations for making your mobile device HIPAA-compliant, including: ¹
- Use passwords and encryption to prevent unauthorized access to patient data.
- Install a firewall and other security software. Make sure your software is updated frequently.
- Choose software that disables your tablet when used remotely or deletes patient information from the unit. If your tablet is ever stolen, the software may prevent an information breech from occurring.
- Maintain physical control of the device. When the tablet is within patients’ or visitors’ reach, be sure to carefully supervise use and prevent theft of the tablet.
Remember to carefully research any apps or other software before installing them on the tablet—these programs must not violate HIPAA or other regulations. Be sure to do your own research and verify your tablet’s compliance before using it in your office.
Using and protecting your new investment
Besides regularly updating the software and purchasing a protection plan, there are other ways to protect and maintain your tablet. Save money by protecting your tablet from damage and by maintaining your device’s condition.
Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering offers a basic overview of tablet care, including these tips: ³
- Protective Case—Choose a case that covers the tablet’s slots, ports and plugs when the device is in storage and provides some screen protection.
- Tablet Location—Your tablet should be placed screen-side down whenever possible to prevent display damage. If the tablet is part of a kiosk or is plugged-in where visitors can access it, make sure cords are out of reach and do not present a trip hazard.
- Stylus Pen Use—Use a compatible stylus pen and do not scratch the display or apply too much pressure to the screen.
- Cleaning the Screen—With heavy use, your tablet may easily attract dirt. If necessary, you can clean your tablet using a somewhat damp cloth. Do not spray the tablet or submerse it in liquid. For extra cleaning power, you can use a small amount of a mild soap such as dish detergent—apply it to a lightly damp cloth and gently clean the display.
With a little basic maintenance, you may prolong the life of your tablet and your tablet can last for several years.
By planning and researching, you may find a great tablet for your office that complies with HIPAA, is compatible with your software and is easy to care for. Think carefully about your office’s needs and ask your EHR vendor and tablet salesperson the right questions.
- HealthIT.gov. “Mobile Device Privacy and Security: Frequently Asked Questions.” https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/frequently-asked-questions-0. Published January 2013. Accessed December 2015.
- ABA Health eSource. “Healthcare Providers May Violate HIPAA by Using Mobile Devices to Communicate with Patients.” http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/aba_health_esource_home/aba_health_law_esource_1110_barrett.html. Published October 2011. Accessed December 2015.
- Virginia Tech College of Engineering. “Tablet Care and Use.” https://www.eng.vt.edu/it/tabletcare. Accessed December 2015.