The right device is dependent upon the user, where it will be used and the tasks being performed.
There is no one-size-fits-all mobile computing solution in healthcare, but one point is universal: With the adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) on the rise — from 34.8 percent in 2007 to 43.9 percent in 2009, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics — it's critical to pair EMR software with the right mobile computer. Without the proper pairing, you'll either lose money on your investment or fail to maximize it.
A healthcare professional looking for a device that will add mobility to an EMR should consider a set of critical components before making a purchase:
For a device to be truly mobile, it needs a long-lasting battery. One solution gaining in popularity is the use of twin hot-swappable batteries. This allows clinicians to switch batteries while the unit is running.
Make sure to consider a device's ergonomic features, such as its weight, heat signature and, most importantly, the inclusion of a hand strap. The hand strap is critical for devices that will be used on the move, like a tablet PC or mobile clinical assistant (MCA).
Wireless connectivity is the key to maximizing the value of your mobile device deployment. While Wi-Fi may suffice for healthcare facilities, home health workers may need to connect via a mobile broadband service. Most devices have a strong signal near a wireless router or cell tower, but they lose strength as they move away from an access point. It's common to blame the wireless network when your device can't hold a signal, but often it's due to the lack of embedded wireless capability. Before selecting a mobile device, test its wireless reception in known fringe areas.
Drops and spills are inevitable; mission-critical patient data can't be trusted with an undependable device. The average annual total cost of ownership (TCO) of a ruggedized notebook is 40 percent lower than the average TCO of a non-rugged device, according to VDC Research.
Also, ask the manufacturer if the device has been tested and independently certified to meet MIL-STD-810G standards for drops.
Since healthcare equipment must be repeatedly sterilized, choose a device that can be thoroughly cleaned. Ask for a list of cleaning agents that can be used on the device and inquire about its IP (ingress protection) rating. For a device that will be frequently sanitized, look for a device with an IP65 rating. Also, check for fan slots, deep screw holes and any other gaps that might be difficult to clean.
It's possible to do a lot with a single device these days. MCA devices are a perfect example. The best models offer integrated features such as barcode and finger print scanners, RFID reader, camera, GPS and contactless smartcard reader — eliminating the need and cost associated with carrying multiple pieces of equipment. When purchasing a mobile device, be sure to consider what integrated features it offers.
IT department directors expect to see a return from their mobile device investment, but this return will only be achieved if the clinical staff is properly trained.
In the healthcare market, deploying the best new mobile computing solution will have a positive impact on clinician productivity and patient care. When purchasing new mobile computing technology, be sure to look beyond the purchase price to maximize your return on investment. Careful consideration of the topics discussed here could significantly improve the value of your mobile computing technology for your patients and your company's
Greg Davidson is senior business development manager of healthcare for Panasonic Solutions Company.
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