VA CIO: Tablet computers could transform health care

Tablet computers could transform the way the Veterans Affairs Department delivers medical care with evidence-based medicine that supports the best clinical practices, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker predicted Wednesday in his monthly media briefing.

The department kicked off a test of 1,000 Apple iPad tablet computers on Oct. 1 and eventually could deploy up to 100,000, backed by a strong demand from clinicians in the 152 VA hospitals, Baker said.

The first clinical application VA plans to field on the iPads is its Computerized Patient Record System, which will allow doctors moving from room to room throughout a hospital to access patient records from the tablets, providing quick and easy access to data.

Baker also envisions clinical applications that take advantage of the display properties of tablet computers, including heart rate monitors and blood chemistry charts, both of which will allow clinicians to do on-the-spot analysis.

Eventually, the department could supply patients in remote areas with tablet computers equipped with full-motion video capabilities to support home telehealth programs, he said.

Baker believes tech-savvy Veterans Affairs doctors will develop future medical applications for tablets that could be provided through an internal VA app store. With its focus on evidence-based medicine, Baker said VA will create its own "brand" in the world of tablet applications.

VA has fielded only iPads in its tablet pilot, but Baker said he expects to support all types of tablet devices and smartphones, including those that run the Android and Windows operating systems.

The department is developing an acquisition strategy for tablets, but Baker said he envisioned a central procurement managed by his office with funding provided by end-user organizations, such as the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration.