I’ve been spending more time in medical facilities the past several months, and I’ve begun to notice some very interesting things in regards to how the tablet pc is being used. Let me highlight for you a couple of scenarios:
I went to see a friend in the hospital and noticed an LE1600 docking station on the wall in her room. My interest piqued at this point, I walked around a couple of nurses stations and saw that they all had LE1600s with docking stations at their workstations. As I watched them work with the tablet pcs in the patient room, they all used the pen to navigate menus, drop downs, and radio buttons. At their workstation, it was all text input. I didn’t see them use it for ink input.
When I went for my physical this past week, the nurse took all my vitals using an M200. She typed on it the whole time, never once using the pen. I asked her if she ever used the pen to input ink or navigate the menus and she said no. Then the P.A. came in with her M200. She typed everything out, but used the pen as a navigational device, hardly ever using the touch pad. When she closed it, it was with the tablet screen down.
When I went to my kids pediatricians office several months ago, their doctor was using an M200 as well. He didn’t even know you could handwrite notes on it and asked me about the TIP icon that kept popping up all over the place – he found it annoying. He used the pen as a navigational tool and typed all of his notes. After showing him about journal and what the TIP is used for, his eyes got really big and the inking experience opportunities suddenly became real to him.
What did I glean from all of this?
First of all, although it is an important feature, the value of the tablet pc is not in the inking – it is in the flexability to use a computer in a multitude of ways and adjusting to the various input needs of the one using it. That could be one reason why Microsoft changed the name of their Tablet PC team to be Mobile and Tailored PC Division. They are tailored to how a person works.
Secondly, training is key when rolling out new technology, especially on the enterprise level. Without proper training, people will become pigeon-holed into a certain way of working, and not think outside the box on how new technology can enhance how they work. Show them all the possibilities, encourage them to use some of the inking features, and suggest ways on how some features might work well with their application.
Third, designing applications for pen navigational needs is very important. The traditional top down, left – right structure is tedious with the pen. Icons need to be bigger, controls need to be bigger, etc. As I have observed, people love using the pen as a navigational device, even when their primary mode of input is text using a built-in keyboard. There is a tremendous need for better menu navigations with the pen. I remember sitting at a conference earlier this year where there were a lot of tablet pcs present. I started looking around and noticed a lot of folks with their tablet or slate in keyboard mode. As I watched them, I noticed that many of them would alternate between using the pen to navigate a menu, select text, and then placing it in their mouth while they typed. They would alternate between pen on screen and pen in mouth very naturally. It was fascinating and humorous to watch. It was humorous because I saw myself doing the exact same thing.
The last item that I’ve taken away from my observations is that Tablet PCs are making some serious headway into the health care industry. This time last year, that hospital didn’t have those LE1600s. I know because my daughter spent a lot of time there last year and I never saw them. Now they have them, and I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I’d see alot more of them.
The key to businesses integrating tablet pcs is taking advantage of the platform and making it a good ROI. That means examining business processes, looking at forms based software, tweaking custom apps to take advantage of what the Tablet PC offers, and training employees on what the tablet pc brings to the table. On GottaBeMobile.com, we are trying highlight how individuals and businesses are doing just that with our Life With Ink series. You can also expect to see some more along those lines, as we strive to help the enterprise area with tablet pc implementation issues.