NOTE: As of February 2013, PolicePad and FireTab are now PublicEye®.

Doctor with iPad

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is giving 1,000 iPads to families of vets, reports American Medical News. The “Clinic-in-Hand” pilot program is part of a larger initiative to study how mobile connectivity can improve the coordination of care between doctors, veterans, and their caregivers. The families will be testing apps developed by the VA to communicate with physicians. Health data will be securely exchanged between all three parties.

The VA previously distributed about 100 smartphones and tablets to its own clinical and administrative staff to improve its communication. It later expanded the program to about 1,000 mobile devices in the Washington, D.C., area. That program uses a “container” app to ensure that all information goes through secure channels and there is no “data leakage,” said the VA Central Office’s Chief Information Officer Horace Blackman in an interview with Government Computer News.

The department also opted to end a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft for 300,000 employees, reported Electronista in April. By shifting away from Windows and other Microsoft products on desktops and laptops and moving toward more mobile devices, the VA could save $70 million each year, the technology publication said.

In all, the VA envisions a future with more than 100,000 tablets running both iOS and Android, according to a NextGov story. Demand for the devices is high among clinicians in the VA’s 152 hospitals, where the department’s Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) is currently run on Windows. Tablets are lighter, less cumbersome, and cheaper than laptops and can be carried easily from room to room.

Although an iPad sold by Apple is a multi-function device, the VA’s pre-installed custom software makes it function as a unique medical information portal, much like Zco’s own PolicePad and FireTab turn the iPad into a dedicated tool for police and fire departments. Some apps may eventually be released for use by non-VA doctors, much as the CPRS is today.

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