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Mobile Computing

Critical considerations before adopting a new system

Mobile computing devices are a valuable tool when it comes to creating an efficient HIT system within your healthcare facility.

By Scott Thie

ith healthcare institutions currently being asked to do more with less, aging popula- tions, too few medical professionals to meet market demands and the pressure of meaningful-use mandates for hospitals to adopt EHR systems, healthcare facilities are rapidly making the move from paper charts to digital records.


In fact, in this year alone, the healthcare IT market is projected to reach $78 billion. This includes expenditures on telecom services/equipment, IT personnel, applications/ mobile applications, computer hardware, network hardware, and third-party services and outsourcing. By 2016, the HIT market will have reached an estimated $92 billion. Mobile computing devices are a valuable tool when it comes to creating an efficient HIT system within your healthcare facility, as they offer real-time access to data and the ability to collect, analyze and share patient information at the point of care.

Still, it can be all too easy to choose your mobile solu- tion in a rush – to either comply with government incentive regulations or consumer demands – without thoroughly evaluating your options first. When it comes to deploying an HIT program within your hospital, there are a variety of critical considerations to assess before adopting a new system. For mobile computers especially, it is impossible to apply a “one-size-fits-all” deployment strategy. Countless enterprise-level mobile computing projects fail because a device was forced in the wrong environment or on the wrong end user. Different healthcare workers have different needs. Healthcare providers should factor in user considerations before selecting devices for deployment. These consider- ations include device ergonomics, battery life, functionality, durability, portability, ease of sanitization and understanding user workflows.

20 November 2012

Taking user workflows into account and being aware of exactly what your physicians and nurses need out of a mobile computing solution is a great first step, and paramount in a healthcare environment – a place where IT must be tai- lored to the end user. A workflow analysis requires that IT departments involve a broad selection of end users – from physicians to nurses and general hospital staff – during the device evaluation process. End-user feedback must not only be solicited, but used to qualify mobile computing solution options.

Ergonomics is a critical consideration. If a clinician is going to carry a device all day, it needs to be lightweight and easy to hold for long periods of time. Some mobile computing solutions are “hands-free,” with an ergonomic strap and dome hand-support system for comfortable long- term use. When considering any mobile technology, looking at the ergonomics of the design is a key recommendation. Hospitals never sleep. Clinicians don’t have time to stop and charge their mobile computers in the midst of patient rounds. Choosing a mobile solution for your staff that has long battery life is essential. A device that comes with hot- swappable battery options – so that doctors and nurses can instantaneously switch a battery with no loss of data while the device is still powered on – is ideal. Functionality in general is something to keep in mind. The ideal tablet (convertible or slate) allows clinicians to accomplish as much as possible with a single device. A well- designed, lightweight convertible tablet can serve as both a physician’s desktop computer and a hand-held tablet for rounds and patient interactions. Mobile clinical assistants (MCAs) have integrated features, such as barcode scan- ners, RFID readers and cameras to improve point-of-care productivity.

Since hospital equipment must be frequently sanitized, choosing a tablet that can be repeatedly cleaned is another


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