September 10, 2013

The most important part of the iPhone 5S for nursing is not the phone, its the Touch ID

Today Apple announced the iPhone 5S, the latest upgrade to their phone with an improved CPU and camera. For nurse educators the most important part of the announcement was the new addition of a fingerprint sensor, call Touch ID built into the home button. This is a remarkable advancement in biometric identification which can bring a new level of security to mobile devices and electronic medical records in hospitals.

The Touch ID system reads a fingerprint below the surface level, at any position, and with any finger. It learns the users fingerprint and improves with use. Anyone who has struggled getting the Pyxis thumb print sensor to work will appreciate this new advance.

Biometric identification, like that used in the Pyxis, is the ultimate in security of private data. The Touch ID makes access to records secure by eliminating passwords or PINs, which can be stolen or figured out. The extra benefit is that it speeds access to the device. In the Apple video the sensor immediately opens the phone. Imagine an EMR in the hospital that you can quickly touch to turn on. No passwords to change monthly or to be surreptitiously taken.

Nurses have access to very private data and the series of passwords and PINs to secure the data has been its biggest vulnerability. Today Apple has opened to the door to a new level of patient privacy protection.

September 3, 2013

PDA is DOA: Stop using 'Personal Digital Assistant'

A new book about computers in healthcare came across my desk today and I noticed that it still referred to PDAs, or Personal Digital Assistants. This is an outdated term that was long ago replaced with other terms such as handheld computer, smartphone, or tablet. Even the literature databases prefer "Computers, Handheld" over PDA. This change took place over 5 years ago, yet PDA still won't go away.

The PDA device morphed into the smartphone and handheld computer (such as a tablet computer or iPod Touch). There are no more PDAs even being made. PDAs were developed in the 1990s for business people to store contact data. Palm and Microsoft developed operating systems that also allowed the addition of third-party applications. It was usually cumbersome to add these applications and there was no central place to buy them and have them automatically added to the device. With the invention of the iPhone in 2007 the days of the PDA became numbered. To buy apps now I just go to iTunes, find my apps, and hit Buy. They wirelessly download into all my iDevices.

So today I am begging my fellow nursing educators to forget about PDA as relic of the past. You would not refer to your car as a horseless carriage. Lets keep up with rest of the technology world and use Handheld Computer. Handheld computer covers smartphones, iPod Touch, and any size tablet computer we are now likely to be using the classroom or clinical.

August 30, 2013

Mini tablets as handheld computers for nursing clinical

Until recently the choices for handheld computing in the clinical setting were 3 to 4 inch screens or 9 to 10 inch tablets. This brought about the Goldilocks test of one being too small and the other being too big. The phone-sized devices can be harder to read and to input text. The traditional tablet, such as the iPad, is too big to put into a scrub pocket and a little on the heavy side to carry around.

The mini-tablet, such as the iPad Mini, has a 7.9 inch screen. This gives the user an experience closer to the large tablet but at a size that is more transportable. If you don't want an Apple tablet be sure to choose an Android-compatible tablet such as the Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. The Apple iOS and the Android operating systems have healthcare software available. For this reason I do not recommend the Amazon Kindle Fire HD because it is limited to Amazon Kindle apps. My preference is for the Apple iOS devices because there are large numbers of free and commercial healthcare apps available, and it is much easier as an educator to direct students to the App Store to find the software.