BACKGROUND: The recent availability of low-cost tablet computers can facilitate bedside information retrieval by clinicians.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of physician tablet use in the Emergency Department.
DESIGN: Prospective cohort study comparing physician workstation usage with and without a tablet.
SETTING: 55,000 visits/year Level 1 Emergency Department at a tertiary academic teaching hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: 13 emergency physicians (7 Attendings, 4 EM3s, and 2 EM1s) worked a total of 168 scheduled shifts (130 without and 38 with tablets) during the study period.
INTERVENTION: Physician use of a tablet computer while delivering direct patient care in the Emergency Department.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was the time spent using the Emergency Department Information System (EDIS) at a computer workstation per shift. The secondary outcome measure was the number of EDIS logins at a computer workstation per shift.
RESULTS: Clinician use of a tablet was associated with a 38min (17-59) decrease in time spent per shift using the EDIS at a computer workstation (p<0.001) after adjusting for clinical role, location, and shift length. The number of logins was also associated with a 5-login (2.2-7.9) decrease per shift (p<0.001) after adjusting for other covariates.
CONCLUSION: Clinical use of a tablet computer was associated with a reduction in the number of times physicians logged into a computer workstation and a reduction in the amount of time they spent there using the EDIS. The presumed benefit is that decreasing time at a computer workstation increases physician availability at the bedside. However, this association will require further investigation.