New computer can take a bath

Handheld computer can hold patient records without hanging onto their germs

Emano Tec didn't just build its new tablet computer for healthcare workers based on the ideas of a bunch of techies and business people. It got second, third and additional opinions from doctors and CIOs.

The result is the MetTab, a 12-ounce device that measures 5.5 inches by 7.5 inches by half an inch and fits easily into a lab coat pocket. It also boasts a high-resolution touch screen and supports handwriting and voice input. The Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-enabled tablet is powered by an Intel 624-MHz processor, relies on a modified version of WinCE OS and features tight security based on Cisco and other technologies. Emano Tec says its device can work a 12-hour shift without recharging.

Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, consulted on the product design and said in a statement: "I believe that the sweet spot for medical laptops/tablets is a weight under a pound, an 8-hour battery life, and a 3-foot drop onto concrete without damage. MedTab is the first device I have seen that meets those criteria." (Read more from Halamka on healthcare IT standards.)

Devices such as Emano Tec's are designed to address the security of electronic medical records and computing portability, as medical staff are often constrained by computers attached to rolling carts.

The Waban, Mass., company, which introduced its product at a healthcare IT event in New Orleans last week, says it is addressing a market that could exceed $8 billion over the next 10 years.

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