If you choose a Web-based EHR cloud computing platform like HealthFusion’s MediTouch EHR® solution, then making hardware decisions is relatively easy. First of all, your practice does not need to buy or maintain expensive servers. If you don’t need to buy expensive servers, then hardware decisions essentially become a no-brainer (and with fewer IT headaches). A good way to assess your hardware needs is to evaluate by the role of software users…

Front and Back Office Users — The chances are that your front office (the members of your team that are responsible for scheduling and check-in) and back office (your billing team) already are equipped with computers. We recommend for modern Web-based EHR systems that your front and back office users work with computers that can run at least Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Mac OS X. It goes without saying that those computers will need to be connected to the Internet. We recommend that you do not spend too much money on computers for your front and back office. If your front or back office team is mobile (you have more than one office), than a laptop may make more sense, usually an inexpensive desktop computer will do the trick.

Nursing Users — Your clinical team may need to be mobile. As an example, they work with patients at a nursing station and also in an exam room. For those users, a laptop or even an inexpensive netbook will work. The rules for an operating system are the same as the ones for the front and back office team recommendations above. We recommend not spending a lot of money on these devices. One thing to keep in mind before buying is to consider the battery life (and a spare battery). You can consider an iPad® with a keyboard, but you may be able to save money with a less expensive netbook or another tablet computer.

Provider Users — For physicians and mid-levels, mobility is key. If your EHR is built for fingertip touch computing like HealthFusion’s MediTouch® system, then an iPad® may be your best bet. It is lightweight, affordable, and the battery life is an outstanding 10 hours. Soon, anyone will be able to wirelessly print from an iPad® (this feature is expected by November 2010). If your workflow requires a lot of keyboarding, then a tablet PC may be the right choice. They are more expensive, heavier and their fingertip touch screens are less responsive than the iPad®. We believe that in the near future there will be more iPad®-like devices that gain in popularity.