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How to achieve the full potential of telemedicine

Hospitals can enhance mobility to promote quality and cost-effective care by utilizing the proper telehealth solution.

By Fouad Abu-Akel T

elemedicine – which is defined for this article as the use of videoconference ca- pabilities to bring together clinicians and patients, regardless of geography – provides a powerful solution to help healthcare organizations contain costs and deliver quality care. Mobile com- puting workstations play a key role in the success of telehealth programs by enabling clinicians to bring the technology to a patient at the point of care while connecting him or her to a clinician at a different location.

Building a telehealth workstation with enhanced mobility and a reliable design that supports the specific applications clinicians need remains a major challenge. Explored in depth below, these issues include: power system options, energy efficiency of videoconferencing components, wireless LAN connectivity, form factor, image quality and moni- tor size.

Power system options For mobile systems, power is a major consider-

ation. From a system design approach, it is critical that the on-board power is compatible with the dif- ferent components on the workstation to provide the clinician with sufficient “unplugged” run time at the point of care.

Fouad Abu-Akel is director of global applications development, Metro. For more information on Metro solutions:

Current battery chem- istries for mobile applica- tions include sealed lead acid (SLA), nickel met- al hydride (NiMH) and lithium nanophosphate (LiNano). Each has differ- ent capabilities and cost.

The SLA battery, for example, has a low initial cost but low energy density, which means a heavy power supply is necessary to provide the required mobile power. Performance of SLA also degrades rapidly over its 300-cycle life. By contrast, the NiMH battery has

16 November 2010

a moderate initial cost, almost twice the energy density of SLA, and has a con- sistent performance over 90 percent of its 1,000-cycle life. The LiNano battery has a moderate initial cost, more than three times the energy densi- ty of SLA, and provides a consistent perfor- mance over more than 3,000 cycles.

Understanding the characteristics of these batteries can be used to accomplish different goals. The needs for each mo- bile telehealth workstation must be carefully evaluated in order to select the right battery chemistry for its purpose.

Energy efficiency of videoconferencing components

When designing videocon- ference hardware codecs, most vendors are designing for room or desktop systems without consideration for mobility or power consumption. Co- decs designed for mobil- ity should be designed from the ground up, with power efficiency at the forefront of design rather than viewed as an afterthought. Just as laptops are designed


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