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Mobile Computing

Powerful stuff C

By Jessica Sharp

harlie Riccardi knew something needed to change when he realized that his staff was spending an extensive amount of time, sometimes hours, changing the sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries in his hospital’s mobile carts. And it wasn’t just the utilization of his resources that concerned him; it was that when the carts were in for maintenance they were not available for clinicians to meet their workflow requirements and ultimately provide care to patients.

Riccardi, system director of the biomedical-engineering department at Main Line Health in suburban Philadelphia, purchased top-of-the-line carts in 2005, and by doing so, also changed productivity and account- ability of the healthcare staff. Before the carts, Main Line Health, along with health- care systems across the country, were still utilizing non-mobile medicine administra- tion carts, or MACS, to deliver medicine to patients. But, beginning around 2004, the healthcare industry experienced a change in medicine delivery with the advent of mobile technologies in the healthcare space. When the need for a more efficient method of delivering medi- cine to patients arose, along with the increased require- ments for electronic docu- mentation at the point of care, the need for a new technology solu- tion to meet these new demands became evident. “The purpose of electronic carts has changed significantly over the last several years,” says Ric-

cardi. “They’re no longer solely used for doling out medications to patients. Nurses, doctors and all other medical staff are now required to document everything, and the purpose of mobile carts has now shifted from a vehicle for distribution to a recorder of every single daily task completed by

a healthcare professional.” 28 September 2012

This increase in usage meant that the battery life of Ric- cardi’s mobile carts no longer met the clinical workflow de- mand. Previously, the carts were used just a handful of times during a given shift. But, as the carts became a requirement for all patient interactions and additional mobile technologies were added to the mix, including barcode scanners and print- ers, the battery could no longer support what was essentially a full-blown PC on wheels.

For more on Futura Mobility:

When Riccardi began his search for a solution, he didn’t have to look very far. Just 15 miles from Main Line

Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital resides the corporate head- quarters of Futura Mobility, a leading mobile solutions pro- vider that supports more than 250,000 devices worldwide. Futura Mobility, formerly Futura Healthcare Technology, has supported Main Line Health’s fleet of mobile carts via help desk support and an extended warranty program since 2005, and had just introduced their new lithium-based power solution called the Continuum Power System. Continuum utilizes lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery technol- ogy and an advanced electronics system that recharges the battery to full capacity in just two hours with a lifespan of five years.

The new battery seemed like the right solution, but before making the decision to switch over, Riccardi wanted to ensure that the investment would address all of the needs of his healthcare staff, not just the need for increased battery life. “Everything the hospital staff does today must be elec- tronically documented. Every interaction now requires notes and a way to keep track of information,” says Riccardi. To address the needs of his staff, Riccardi solicited feed- back from nurses and clinicians, who all agreed that the displays on the current carts were too small. A larger screen size would allow them to include patient input into the documentation process, instead of having to scroll through various screens, allowing them to be more productive. In addition, nurses also needed a larger work surface, much of which was currently being taken up by printers and scanners that sat on top of the carts. Riccardi and Futura Mobility worked closely together to find a solution and then customized it to meet all of the needs of Main Line Health’s staff. To ensure the cart’s work surface would not be inhibited, Futura developed a custom technology tray that fits within the contours of the cart


When it comes to getting optimal use from carts, Philadelphia’s Main Line Health finds it’s all about battery lifespan and charge time.

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