All posts by cybernet

The Right Computer Can Reduce the Impact of a Food Recall

Product recalls are part and parcel of business, but they are of particular importance when it comes to food. Tainted food presents an active health risk in ways that other products don’t, and because most food is both perishable and vulnerable to toxins, a recall needs to be enacted swiftly and efficiently. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues about 8,000 recalls on food products every year. Any company that works in the food industry needs to be prepared for that eventuality.

The right industrial computers can play a role in minimizing the impact of a food recall: ensuring that the affected product is identified and returned as swiftly as possible while minimizing the impact on other aspects of your business. Knowing what kind of features a given industrial PC should have in such circumstances – and acting on that information in anticipation of a recall instead of reacting after a recall has been ordered – can make a huge difference in how swiftly your business can recover.

Tracking and Identifying the Recalled Product

The U.S. government utilizes Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to identify the affected food product and the source of the contamination. BIN numbers and lot numbers are a key part of this process: tracking specific parcels of food as they move from the farm to the grocery store.

Because it is the government standard, it is vital that a food manufacturer is able to present highly traceable data to minimize how much product is recalled. An industrial tablet with a barcode scanner can scan produce as it is picked from the field, assigning the date picked, the field the food came from and even the time of day the food began its journey from farm to table. RFID readers can track pallets from the warehouse to the shipping and receiving dock. And all of this data can be automatically logged into an ERP system. That level of traceability will ensure that any financial damage from a food recall is minimized.

Recording Your Process

Following a recall, the FDA conducts an audit covering all aspects of production in order to identify the cause of the recall and ensure that corrective measures have been taken. They also check to see if the cause of the recall might affect other food products, and if so, whether it should be extended to include those products. The audit will include a list of the different accounts to be audited, the details on your recall strategy, key personnel to be interviewed, and the specific methods by which the audit will be conducted. The more transparency your process has and the more reliable information you can provide the auditors, the faster the process will go and the more quickly you can move forward.

A digitally recorded process on your company’s computer network can help speed up those audits and get you back in business faster. That means copious records – dated to help establish a timeline – as well as details on the means by which the recall was undertaken. That can mean a great deal of data to sift through, as well as a consolidated record-keeping system and a means of monitoring all aspects of production. Information needs to be received from multiple sources – the course of the food, transportation, packaging facilities, and storage, among others – and yet be easily integrated and accessible with a minimum of fuss.

As a result, any industrial computer systems your operation uses should emphasize interoperability and shared data to better ensure comprehensive transparency. Enterprise resource planning software, or ERP, makes an excellent means of keeping all the needed information accessible. The software can integrate data across multiple locations, and provide superior analysis to mine actionable information from it. So instead of manually examining the data and looking for the pertinent components – a process that can waste hundreds of hours – you can use the ERP software to quickly pinpoint the key details that triggered the food recall and take appropriate action. For example, a recent case study from STIR Food used ERP software to conduct a number of mock food recalls. The software accounted for 100% of the affected product within 13 minutes of completing the task.

That, in turn, requires systems with high processing power in order to parse the data quickly. In addition, look for systems with multiple LAN connection ports that allow all of the computers in your network to interface quickly and easily on an intranet. Such efficiency can help resolve an FDA audit quickly and get your operation back up to speed.

Quality Control

Once the recall is completed, the ideal scenario is to prevent similar recalls from ever happening again. Studies show that automated processes that monitor all stages of production can spot potential problems and call for corrective measures before they become a crisis. The Internet of Things – sensor-enabled technology that can record information from any type of object – can play a huge role in this. The expansion of the IoT has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. Business Insider projects that there will be 34 billion connected devices in the world by 2020.

The data generated by such a network can allow for automated processes at all stages of the food production chain, which in turn can aid your organization in anticipating and correcting problems before they result in a food recall. For example, IoT sensors in refrigeration trucks can monitor the temperature to ensure that it will keep any food properly chilled until it reaches its destination. Sensors can be used to monitor things like pH levels during food processing, sending alerts in the event of abnormal tests which might be the result of a contaminant in the manufacturing process.

Industrial panel PCs with human machine interface features (HMI) allow employees to receive alerts and swiftly move to halt production until a given issue can be fixed. Computer systems with such features allow the benefits of IoT to be applied more readily, and quality control to rise as a result.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers an array of business and industrial computers that can help expedite and prevent the impact of a food recall. Contact us today to hear more!

Powered vs. Non-Powered Medical Carts: Which Is Right for You?

Medical carts, or workstations on wheels, have become a staple tool for hospitals and other health care facilities. They allow nurses and health care practitioners to wheel medical grade computers to different locations in the hospital, as well as peripheral devices, instruments and medication, among other items. They can save a lot of time and effort for your staff, and come in a variety of options to address the specific needs of individual medical organizations.

Medical carts are further divided into two basic categories: powered carts, which provide their own power source for computers and other peripherals via an integrated battery; and non-powered carts, which offer no battery and require the computers and other components they carry to find other power sources. Both options provide benefits and drawbacks for your staff. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new cart or carts for your organization, it pays to evaluate the pros and cons very carefully. We’ve provided a quick breakdown of the most pertinent differences between powered and non-powered carts below.

Weight

Any mobile cart, whether powered or non-powered, must feature an ergonomic design that makes it easy to move and work with without risking repetitive stress disorders and similar injuries. Weight plays a huge role in that process. A heavy workstation-on-wheels can take a toll on those who use it; in the worst cases, they can cause active injury, and even those that can be maneuvered readily carry the risk of chronic pain to hospital staff.

A recent study from Biomedical Journal and Scientific and Technical Research reported an increase in lower back pain for nurses on the job: rising from 16.8% before they began nursing up to a staggering 85% afterwards. Heavy lifting was cited as a significant factor in such injuries in 78.2% of cases. Specifics vary widely by workload, the physical size and strength of the affected staff members, and factors related to the physical location (such as needing to push weight up a ramp or incline), but clearly the less physical strain a given medical staff has to deal with, the better.

Some of that can be addressed by the construction of any workstation on wheels your staff uses: look for features like adjustable heights, trays that can pan and tilt, and rotating wheels with low rolling resistance. However, when it comes to sheer weight, non-powered carts hold a clear advantage over their powered cohorts. Without the weight of a battery they are easier to move, present a smaller footprint (i.e., their length and width are narrower which requires less floor space), and place less strain on the joints and muscles of your staff. This is of particular importance if the workplace features tight quarters, as many ORs and patient rooms do.

Power Supply

Powered hospital carts are used to run the computers connected to them via batteries integrated into the cart. Those batteries have a finite amount of power, and must be periodically recharged if they’re going to do their jobs. This can be difficult in hospital settings and similar facilities, which often have to run 24/7 in order to treat their patients. A powered cart can take anywhere from 2-6 hours to recharge. If you have to recharge the cart two times a day that becomes an instant liability: the cart takes up space without its computer delivering any utility in exchange. This can have a serious impact on workplace efficiency. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, equipment shortages caused by recharging or otherwise disabled computers on wheels wastes as much as 10% of a hospital staff’s work day: forcing them to work longer hours.

Non-powered carts rely on computers with hot-swap batteries, which eliminates the need to connect them to the battery from a powered cart. (Hot swapping refers to a battery that can be safely removed and replaced with a fresh battery without a loss of power to the computer. That allows for 24/7 use without spending any time recharging.) The question then just comes down to selection. Obviously with a powered cart, you have greater flexibility with regard to the computer you can mount on it. A non-powered cart limits you to just computers with hot swap batteries.

Longer Run Times

Simply put, it is important to understand how long your computer cart will run before the battery needs to be charged. That could mean the battery that powers the cart itself on a powered cart, or the hot swap batteries that power the computer on a non-powered cart. Run time is important for a number of different reasons. As we mentioned before, having to plug a cart into a power outlet to charge can lead to a lot of downtime, and wasted hours for staff. In this sense using a medical cart computer with hot swap batteries makes more sense. A solution like this provides for 24/7 run time as depleted batteries can be swapped out for fully charged ones throughout the day. Even if a facility chose to plug in a hot swap battery computer to recharge, instead of using spare batteries, the smaller batteries in a computer would return to full capacity much more quickly than a large cart battery, leading to less downtime.

The importance of run time goes beyond mitigating downtime. As with all Lithium Ion batteries, they will lose their ability to hold a full charge over time. This typically happens after about 300 cycles. The more often you have to recharge the battery, the quicker the battery start to deplete. The longer the run time of your power supply, the longer you can go without needing to purchase a replacement battery. Computers with hot swap batteries tend to have much longer run times than a cart battery, and are also much cheaper to replace.

Charging Peripherals

Carts can also be used to carry peripheral devices throughout the care facility. In many cases, such peripherals may require power of their own. Barcode scanners and printers are two very common devices that are mounted on medical carts. One advantage a powered cart has is the ability to power these types of devices. However, if you have a hot swap medical computer that can also power a peripheral device, then the advantage is neutralized. That is a question that needs to be asked when researching a medical cart solution.

Utility is the name of the game when it comes to workstations on wheels. Every facility and end user has a different set of requirements that must be met and the balance between cost and functionality must be weighed. That tipping point will be different for everyone. For more information on powered vs. non-powered carts and the computers that would best pair with them you can contact us here.

 

 

The Benefit of Medical Tablets to Wound Care

When it comes to healthcare, few conditions need to be addressed with more urgency than wounds and similar injuries. Treating wounds promptly can reduce scarring, lower the risk of infection and speed the healing process. The sooner medical personnel can examine and treat a wound, the better. That often means giving tools to healthcare providers in the field, such as emergency medical technicians and firefighters, as well as wound care specialists and similar staff members at a hospital or care ward. Medical tablets make an excellent means of doing so: utilizing cutting-edge technology to address wound care with the swiftness and efficiency required for a speedy recovery. How? We’ve listed four brief ways below.

Medical Tablets Provide Telehealth Solutions

Telehealth is the means of connecting healthcare providers to their patients through technology, which can include anything from examining patients remotely to consulting experts who might not be on site. This plays an especially large role in wound care, where time is of the essence. The National Institute of Health cites a study on telehealth practices and wound care from CICAT in France, showing that telehealth practices reduced the number of hospitalizations resulting from wound care by 72%, and reduced the number of ambulance transfers by 56%. That translates not only to improved care but a significant reduction in time and resources that can be used to treat other patients.

A medical tablet plays a huge role in that process. With it, EMTs and other personnel can take pictures of the injury en route and forward it electronically to the hospital. That allows them to prepare for the patient’s arrival, as well as providing an early diagnosis to help the EMTs provide more effective immediate care. Even better, physicians at the hospital can provide a diagnosis via the tablet, and determine whether the patient needs to come to the hospital or if treatment can be effectively implemented on site.

The effects can be felt in improved response times and more patients served. For example, a 2017 study cited by the Journal of Emergency Services — involving first-responders in Houston — reported medical technicians returned to work 44 minutes faster than they would have without telehealth options: reducing wasted time without a loss of quality care.

Specialty Access Improves Effectiveness

Wounds often fall under the purveyance of a Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) nurse, specially trained to deal with such injuries. Ameritech estimates that 4% of all hospital cases involve wound treatment of some kind, which means WOC nurse skills are in high demand. But that can stretch WOC nurses’ availability thin – especially when the hospital becomes busy – and with wound care, timely treatment can make a huge difference.

Hospital tablet PCs can help such specialists use their time more effectively. They permit WOC nurses and others to receive images of the injury and other data that they can use to make a swift diagnosis, then pass the needed treatment information back to the point of care without wasting time. Medical tablets can further assist in such efforts by allowing for one-handed operation – giving the attending caregiver a free hand to measure the length of the wound and provide proper scale for the WOC nurse to better make a diagnosis.

Interconnection Makes a Difference

A tablet connected to a larger computer network has access to the data in that network, allowing users to check information that they might not otherwise be able to. This has a bearing on wound care, both in terms of immediate treatment and on more general practices. For example, in Canada, the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre (TC CCAC) reported significant improvement in wound care through the use of data analytics and application. The software  allowed medical tablets to record real-time data, then track the length and rate of the healing process. That resulted in a reduction in patient readmission for wound care — down from 31% to a mere 7% –as well as a significant improvement in the length of healing.

The best medical tablet PCs allow swift and easy access to such data directly at the point of care, whether it be in a hospital setting or in the field. That, in turn, allows medical personnel to apply the data to their particular patient, ensuring more effective treatment faster.

Tablets with Antimicrobial Components Provide Safeguards

Sterility and hygiene are serious concerns for any kind of medical treatment, but they particularly important when it comes to wounds. Open wounds are exceedingly vulnerable to infection (which can come from almost anywhere), and even wounds from sterilized environments such as surgery incisions develop infections some 1-to-3 percent of the time, according to studies from Johns Hopkins.

That makes sterility very important for any devices operating in close proximity to any wound. Tablets are of especial concern since they are often passed from technician to technician, and used to treat numerous patients for a wide variety of issues. That, in turn, can increase the threat of germs and infection when treating any kind of wound.

That’s part of why medical-grade tablets are preferable to commercial-grade tablets when it comes to point-of-care for wounds. More specifically, tablets with an antimicrobial surface will keep germs from being transmitted from one patient to another, reducing the risk when used to treat an open or infected wound. In addition, tablets protected from liquid ingress, such as those with an IP65 rating, can be safely cleaned with liquid disinfectant and kept hygienic much more easily.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers a series of  medical tablet PCs for a variety of uses, including point-of-care and EMT services. Contact us today to discuss your options!

Industrial Panel PCs and the Internet of Things

The “Internet of Things” has become the hottest buzzword in tech circles. It refers to the practice of physical items outfitted with electronics that allow them to connect to the internet and exchange data with other devices. It can include anything from dishwashers to bicycles, and its effects are in the process of transforming the world..

Nowhere is this more acutely felt than in heavy industry, where warehouses and factory floors are undergoing a sea change thanks to IoT. Industrial computers – and particularly industrial panel PCs – allow IoT to flourish in such environments. In the process, they can streamline the production process, ensure more efficient shipping, and otherwise help a given company improve the bottom line. How do such systems facilitate the IoT and what kinds of qualities should you look for in them if you wish to make use of them in an IoT environment? We cite a few examples below.

Improving Efficiency Becomes Easy with HMI

Automated machinery and assembly-line equipment often use industrial computers to allow human workers to control them via human machine interface (HMI). IoT integration can accentuate that process and permit humans to monitor automated systems much more effectively.

For example, sensors connected to components on an automobile assembly line (or the automated machinery tasked with assembling the cars) can detect elevated temperature, vibrations and similar structural problems that may result in a defective component. It can also detect recurring trends along those lines, suggesting a batch of components with common structural problems or perhaps an issue earlier in the assembly process creating such problems. That, in turn, alerts human operators to the problem and allows them to correct the problem before it causes more damage.

An industrial panel PC allows human monitors to quickly spot the issue through HMI: pinpointing the spot on the line where the problem is occurring and allowing the process to be shut down in order to correct it. That saves untold costs by stopping the problem early, as well as helping to indicate which (if any) assembled products may be affected by the issue.

Predictive Maintenance Saves Time and Money

When it comes to assembly lines and similar industrial apparatus, little problems can turn into big headaches very quickly. A single faulty machine can grind production to a halt while it gets repaired: costing the company huge amounts in lost productivity. Regular maintenance can identify trouble before it starts, but that can take a great deal of man hours, and often involves shutting production down regardless.

IoT can change that equation. The network of sensors that comprise IoT provides an ocean of data that can be analyzed and assessed. Machines can self report scheduled maintenance to operators, making sure that routine checks aren’t overlooked, which can lead to bigger issues down the road. When an IoT machine does breakdown, they can send information that identifies the exact nature of the problem, preventing a small fix from turning into a long and expensive repair issue that can arise from misdiagnosing a problem.

RFID Readers Improve Automation in Warehouses

IoT technology can also be used in warehouses and storerooms as a means facilitating automated management. For example, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can sort and organize products for distribution. Sensors are placed along the production like and radio frequency ID tags (RFID) can identify the specific SKU of each box. That, in turn, allows them to be sorted accurately and stacked in the right section.

Controllers can use an industrial touchscreen PC with an RFID reader to keep track of the process, and to make adjustments or changes as needed. For instance, if a new product comes into the warehouse, the SKU for that product can be entered into the system and a storage spot assigned to it. The AS/RS will then automatically adjust the process to ensure that the new product ends up where it’s supposed to go. Not only does this significantly streamline the organization process, but it can help workers quickly identify the location of a given product that might otherwise get lost in the rows and stacks of storage.

Processing Power Matters

Considering the number of interconnected devices and the volume of data created by IoT, any system needs to be able to keep up. Every sensor and data reader in a given network produces data, and that data needs to be processed and analyzed, often in real time. That means higher processing power, lower energy use, and the ability to integrate numerous different data stream seamlessly. Indeed, recent articles by Deloitte Consulting and SAS cite the rise of more powerful processing abilities as one of the chief factors enabling IoT technology.

Any kind of industrial panel PC employed for us in an IoT  environment needs high processing power to accommodate the large amounts of data involved. It also should be upgradable, if possible: allowing you to expand its power by upgrading CPUs and RAM as required. That lets you further expand your use of IoT tech while still relying on the same computer to monitor and control the information you receive.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing produces a line of panel PCs designed to work with the Internet of Things. Contact us today to discuss your options!

RFID tablet medical tablet

5 Ways Mobile Health Clinics Benefit from Medical-Grade Tablets

When most people think of medical care, they think of traditional care facilities such as hospitals and medical clinics. But times are changing, and the advent of new technology has freed healthcare facilities to move… literally. Mobile healthcare clinics are becoming increasingly common: able to travel to patients in rural locales or similar distant spots without surrendering the efficiency and accuracy of quality medical care. According to a recent article by Reuters, mobile healthcare accounted for over $23 billion in revenue in 2017, and that number only looks to expand in the future.

Medical-grade computers, especially tablets, can play a huge role in helping mobile health clinics more effectively treat their patients. As mHealth practices become increasingly prevalent and healthcare facilities weigh their options, it pays to understand what kinds of benefits one can derive from the right computer system. Here are a few benefits that medical-grade tablets can provide to mobile health clinics.

They’re Better Protected from Drops

Mobile health operations can’t always depend on the carefully controlled conditions one finds in a hospital or similar clinic. For example, a mobile tablet needs to be tougher and more durable than a commercial grade tablet. Mobile health clinics are vulnerable to many more bumps and jolts than stationary workspaces, and if an out-of-the-box tablet is dropped or jostled, it could suffer a great deal of damage. That in turn could severely affect the clinic’s ability to provide viable care by eliminating access to the computer’s data and analysis abilities. Mobile clinics lend themselves to more people handling the tablet as well. Patient registration, questionnaires or even accessing patient portals means a device might be handled by dozens of people per day. And patients aren’t always as careful with a device that isn’t theirs.

A rugged medical tablet should be tough enough to handle such drops. Ideally, it should be in compliance with military-grade specifications, allowing it to be dropped safely and endure similar bumps and jolts without damage. That ensures you’ll be able to use the tablet as needed and prevents the odd pothole or fumbling hands from turning a key part of your mobile clinic’s operation into an expensive paperweight.

Stop Germs from Spreading When You Travel

The spread of germs and illness from one patient to another is a serious concern for any healthcare organization. Hospitals and stationary clinics go to great lengths to curtail the spread of nosocomial pathogens (illnesses incurred directly from exposure at a hospital or clinic). That becomes much more difficult in a mobile health setting. The simple act of moving from place to place exposes staff members and patients alike to germs and similar illnesses, and mobile clinic staff who aren’t careful can inadvertently spread such contamination as they move from place to place.

This is especially problematic with mobile devices used in such locations. For example, studies from the National Institute of Health indicated that 80% of cell phones used by medical staff members carried some kind of bacterial pathogen on the surface. Tablets carry the same risks, since they are handled on a regular basis by hospital staff who spend a great deal of time in touch with contagious patients.

Medical tablet PCs can provide protection on that front. Specifically, tablets with an antimicrobial coating – or even better, antimicrobial properties in the resin of the case itself – can help repel germs and keep them from spreading from patient to patient as the mobile clinic goes about its rounds. In addition, tablets that are IP65 certified are protected against liquid or dust ingress, which means you can clean them with liquid disinfectant without compromising their operational capacity.

Telehealth Applications Bring Doctors Closer to Distant Patients

One of the central purposes of mobile clinics is to bring healthcare to people who might not be able to readily reach a stationary hospital. Whether it’s because they’re in a rural location far away from an established clinic, they lack the resources to travel there, or they’re sufficiently ill that reaching a hospital or similar location constitutes an undue burden on their health, a mobile clinic provides a ready answer by bringing equipment and personnel to them instead of the other way around.

Telehealth practices allow patients and doctors to connect from vast distances and provide efficient care via video teleconferencing and similar practices. For instance, the world’s first “virtual hospital” – Mercy Virtual Care Center in St. Louis – oversees care for almost 4,000 people living at home with chronic conditions. They, in turn, are connected to over 40 hospitals and 800 physicians in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, who can reach those distant patients via WiFi connections.

Medical grade tablets, with their light weight and easy portability, make an ideal way to establish such connections: allowing a patient to receive examinations, diagnoses, medical prescriptions and the like from doctors throughout an entire network of hospitals… all without leaving their bedrooms.

RFID and Barcode Scanners Streamline Data Management

Data management remains a serious concern for any medical organization, and such concerns loom all the larger in a mobile clinic. Bloodmobiles, for example, need to catalogue and keep track of the blood they collect, which involves a great deal of paperwork to make sure the samples are accurately catalogued.

Integrating such details into an electronic medical record (EMR) can be a painstaking and at times exhausting process. A recent New York Times articles stated that physicians can spend as much as half of their time on EMRs instead of catering for patients, which leads to a greater frequency of mistakes and increased burnout. Those factors are enhanced for mobile healthcare, which needs to ensure the data they gather is accurate and can be integrated into the EMRs of their entire network.

A tablet equipped with barcode scanners, radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, and similar features, can streamline the process of data management considerably.  To take the above example, a barcode scanner linked to a medical tablet can quickly and accurately enter the blood type, date and time of collection, and donor data simply by reading the barcode on the blood sample itself. That, in turn, can be relayed instantly back to the hospital or stationary clinic, allowing its seamless integration into the network’s EMRs. Hospital staff can then make use of the data immediately – without having to wait for the mobile clinic to “return to base” – and personnel are spared the effort of cataloging the data by hand.

Hot Swap Batteries Provide Constant Power

Anyone who’s owned a cell phone – which is pretty much everyone at this point – knows the feeling of helplessness when their device runs out of power. Mobile clinics can experience a similar drain on their equipment, which can be a considerable problem with limited electrical outlets and finite power. A mobile tablet won’t be very useful if it needs to be plugged in to retain power, and dealing with low battery levels can distract staff members from the patient care they should be engaged in.

A tablet with “hot swap” batteries can help solve this problem. Such units can swap batteries out while the power is turned on: replacing them with fresh units from a recharging station without forcing you to shut off the tablet. That, in turn, allows it to continue operating 24/7, ensuring that staff members can use it whenever and wherever it’s needed without having to plug it in beforehand.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing carries a line of medical-grade tablet PCs that address the concerns of a mobile clinic. If your organization is invested in mobile medical services, contact us today to discuss your options!

Patient Infotainment trends

4 Features to Look for in Bedside Medical Computers

No one likes to think about a stay in the hospital, and yet it’s sometimes necessary in order to properly treat a given medical condition. According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, approximately 36.5 million Americans receive hospital care every year, with an average time spent of 4.5 days apiece. Bedside care remains an important part of overall patient care at medical institutions of all varieties.

Thanks to advances in computer technology, medical grade computers can now be permanently affixed to bedside stations. That, in turn, can improve the patient’s hospital experience greatly, as well as making it easier for doctors and other care providers to do their jobs. There are several important features that a hospital administration should look for in such computers, in order to make the best use of their location at the patient’s bedside and the attendant healthcare benefits that can bring. We’ve included a list of 4 of them below.

Antimicrobial Features Are a Big Concern

Medical computers remain a contact point for germs and contagions, since they’re used by a number of different people on most days and can easily be passed on to patients. The CDC estimates that approximately 1.7 million cases of hospital acquired illnesses (HAIs) take place in the United States every year, with 99,000 fatalities among that number. Bedside workstations are of particular concern, since they are in close proximity to patients.

The best way to combat that is to use bedside medical PCs with anti-microbial coating on their surface, or antimicrobial properties baked into the resin. That helps reduce the spread of germs on the device’s surface and allows staff members to use it with less chance of passing on any contagions. In addition, computers with an IP65 rating are protected against dust and liquid intrusion. That lets your staff clean the computer with liquid disinfectant – further reducing the spread of germs – without damaging the computer itself.

Ease of Access Helps Your Staff’s Efficiency

The patient’s bedside is where doctors and nurses check on the patient: monitoring their progress, taking key readings and administering medication if needed. Logging such data can be supremely tedious, especially when a practitioner has to write down data by hand for later entry into the system. A recent study by Forbes indicates that hospital staff spend an average of 2-3 hours of uncompensated time each day filling in such data.

Bedside computers allow doctors and nurses to access the data they need immediately. That ease of access can extend to taking readings and checking the status of medication, as well as entering the patient’s data into an electronic health record. Medical PCs with biometric scanners, RFID readers, barcode scanners and the like can pull up the patient’s charts simply by wiping a bracelet or running the scanner over a barcode on the medication needed. That, in turn, permits the staff to move through their rounds quickly, while still maintaining high levels of accuracy and ensuring that medication and other treatments are applied as required.

Patient Accessibility Provides Swift Answers to Basic Questions

Beyond the hospital staff, patients themselves can take advantage of bedside medical grade computers to improve their care. Specifically, patient portals, which give patients access to at least some of their medical records – scheduled appointments, lab results, discharge summaries and recent doctor visits, among other information – enhance their understanding of their condition and the means used to treat it. According to research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology, 52 percent of individuals under care of a health provider accessed their medical records via a patient portal. Of that number, 80% considered such information useful to their treatment.

Tethered patient portals – those directly linked to your organization’s electronic medical care systems (EMR) – can easily be made accessible from a bedside computer system. A given patient can access the pertinent data via scans from a medical bracelet, allowing them access to said data while securing other information in the network that doesn’t relate to them. Access to such records helps patients better understand the specifics of their treatment, which helps illuminate their condition and eliminate worry. Patient portals also answer basic questions 24 hours a day, without having to wait for a doctor or a nurse to arrive on their rounds.

Infotainment Improves the Patient Experience

In addition to immediate information regarding their treatment and condition, bedside computers can provide infotainment options to keep patients’ spirits up and allow them to remain in touch with loved ones. Options such as these do far more than simply alleviate patient boredom. According to studies from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a positive patient experience makes it less likely that they will make an error in their medication after being discharged, as well as reducing the chances of re-admission by as much as 50%. That can translate into lower costs incurred by the hospitals themselves, as well as more successful treatment.

Medical panel PCs at one’s bedside can accomplish a great deal on this front. With WiFi access, patients can surf the internet or watch movies and television programs via platforms such as Netflix. Applications such as Skype let them contact friends or relatives, some of whom may be quite distant or be unable to visit them otherwise. They can even order meals from the kitchen, saving the staff the time and effort of having to take down their orders. Bedside computers can be readily equipped with the components necessary for such features, including WiFi access, touchscreen technology to operate the system, a webcam for Skype and similar applications, and a proper speaker configuration.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers a number of medical computers to serve at patients’ bedsides. For more information, contact our team today.

4 Ways That AI will Affect Medical Computer Systems

The term “artificial intelligence” conjures images straight out of science fiction blockbusters: super-smart machines controlling all aspects of life, and often running wild to destroy their human creators. In reality, however, AI is very different… and in many ways, it’s already here.

Artificial intelligence is defined most prominently by an ability to perform human-like tasks. For instance, many AI programs are designed to learn over time, allowing them to analyze data more accurately and provide more sophisticated computing functions.

This impact can be felt most profoundly in the medical industry, which is already undergoing a technological revolution thanks to modern medical computer systems. The advent of AI will affect such systems considerably, and in a few years may become an integral part of any medical organization. Those hoping to take advantage of the enormous potential of AI applications would do well to start preparing for it now.

So what does that mean? It means taking a close look at the ways that AI will affect medical-grade PCs and ensuring that the units in your network are prepared for it. Here are 4 specific things to look for.

Upgradable Components Add Processing Power

AI relies on typical hardware concerns, which come down to processing power and storage space. The faster a computer can perform and the more space it has to hold information, the better it can do its job. Consider, for example, the vital task of data analysis. An AI program can analyze a huge amount of medical records very quickly in order to spot trends in treatment plans and places where errors seem to recur. (This is already happening in places like the Cleveland Clinic, where IBM’s Watson program is used to conduct deep data mining of existing medical records.)

In order to do that, it needs a system with a great deal of memory and processing power, and implementing such a program may require you to replace older computers that lack the capacity. Alternately, looking at an upgradable system now – with the ability to upgrade ram, add a second hard drive or even upgrade the CPU with more powerful versions in the future – will allow your network to adjust to increased needs and better take on the requirements of an artificial intelligence system.

Superior Imaging Helps AI Do Its Job

Diagnostic imaging PCs and similar devices help enhance the images doctors need to perform diagnoses: anything from x-rays of broken bones to endoscopes pinpointing problems in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract. But imaging analysis can take a long time, as medical personnel pore over numerous images in search of accurate information. That means a significant loss of efficiency at best, and if the needed information is time-specific – if, for example, the information is required before emergency surgery – it can be dangerous.

3D medical scans benefit immeasurably from AI features, which can analyze visual data much faster and with greater accuracy than humans. (MIT has developed an algorithm called VoxelMorph for just such analyses.) But that, in turn, relies on high-quality imaging from the computer itself, which provides better data samples and can improve accuracy. A system with a high-end video card and superior image processing will be well-suited to AI image diagnostics, and allow such applications to perform their functions effectively.

Everything Is Connected

Accurate analysis depends on accurate data, and that can rely on devices that aren’t necessarily set up for an AI application. An older x-ray machine, for instance, may use outdated image files that are not readily integrated into a newer medical computer network. Patient data, medication supplies and similar details may also suffer from interconnection issues (such as when they are recorded by hand and logged into an electronic system later).

The more interconnectivity a network has, the more readily such data can be analyzed and interpreted by an AI system. That starts with peripheral equipment, such as 2D barcode scanners and RFID devices. When directly integrated into a medical tablet or computer on wheels, they allow nurses and doctors to instantly scan patient data by swiping the scanner over medical bracelets, as well as scanning barcodes on medication bottles and even medical equipment.

Similarly, legacy ports such as RS-232 ports on a medical computer provide access for older machines. That, in turn, allows an AI application to analyze the data from a legacy device with considerable speed and efficiency. The more you can address interconnectivity with a system designed for AI functions, the more smoothly it will run with other equipment, and the more quality data will be procured for its use.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing produces a variety of medical grade PCs to facilitate artificial intelligence applications. If your organization is looking at the potential of AI for your network, contact our team to discuss your options.

industrial computers and industrial tablets

Use of Industrial Computers in the Aerospace Sector

Few industries are more exciting or hold more potential for the future than aerospace: a merging of science, business and engineering to literally reach the skies. When most people think of the term, they think of planes, satellites and space shuttles, but the aerospace industry is actually quite diverse, with applications in the military, heavy industry and commercial endeavors.

Computers play a vital role in the field of course, and considering both the complexity of aerospace endeavors and the need for powerful systems that can withstand all manner of punishment, a standard out-of-the-box commercial system is simply not going to do the job. Industrial PCs, with the right features to handle both the computing necessities of the job and the physical demands that the aerospace field often places on it, makes a far better solution. How, exactly? Here are a few examples of the ways aerospace companies make use of the unique features of rugged computers.

Industrial Tablets Make Aircraft Maintenance a Snap

Maintenance is an ongoing process when it comes to aircraft: constant, ever-present and exceedingly important for obvious reasons. Maintenance personnel must often rely on mobile computers to do their work, since aircraft can’t exactly be parked at an office workstation. Furthermore, rugged PCs are an absolute necessity owing to the bumps, shocks and vibrations that can often occur around airports and aircraft.

For example, a crew may need to call up a 3D image to assess any potential issues, as well as schematics and technical documents, which the tablet needs to provide swiftly and without error. They may also require flight-related data to determine when and where a given piece of damage took place. In some cases, they may even need the tablet to help search for signs of damage with the aid of an ultrasonic detector. All of that requires a lot of processing power, and the tablet used needs to be up for the job.

An industrial tablet is usually lightweight and has an ergonomic grip, allowing maintenance teams to carry them around easily and use in one hand. Furthermore, a rugged chassis that meets MIL-STD-810G standards will keep it running even if it takes a tumble, and that you don’t need to worry about unexpected jolts while performing your work.

 

Jettisoning Paper Manuals Saves More than Just Trees

Tablets in the cockpit can be applied to simpler problems as well. Consider, for example, the case of technical manuals required to be carried on all flights. That includes pre-flight checklists, the aircraft’s operating manual, logbooks, navigation charts, and even maps of airports. (Pilots used duffel bags to carry them all.) Paper flight manuals can add up to 40 pounds of weight. It may seem like a trivial amount of weight (about the equivalent of a single carry-on item), but every pound uses more fuel. When you multiply that by hundreds of aircraft making several thousand flights per day, that fuel cost adds up. 

Industrial grade tablets within the cockpit are being used to replace those manuals instantly while ensuring that the information is always present and accessible. Tablet PCs and rugged PCs weigh considerably less than all those manuals. These are known as electronic flight bags, or EFBs. For example, American Airlines estimated that their electronic flight bags conserves over 400,000 gallons of fuel per year, which translates to over one million dollars in saved revenue per year (depending on the price of fuel). Now imagine all of the other areas of the plane where a mini rugged computer or industrial tablet can replace older, heavier equipment. The savings doesn’t just have to be enjoyed by large commercial airliners either. Any size aircraft can gain efficiencies by making the switch. 

Rugged PCs  for Aeronautic Vehicles

When it comes to planes, helicopters and other aerospace vehicles, the information at the pilot’s fingertips is vital. Space is at a premium in any cockpit, and yet pilots depend on a staggering array of instruments and gauges to give them the data they need. Ideally, that data should be updated with real-time information on issues such as incoming turbulence, news of airport closures and similar concerns that can drastically affect flight operations.

A rugged industrial PC provides some streamlined answers to cockpit issues. Rugged PCs are usually very small, requiring minimal space to function. Yet they can provide significant processing power, and can stand up to the bumps of take-off, landing, and turbulence as well as the temperature extremes that come with most types of flight. Industrial computers can also be customized to include legacy ports like an RS-484 port allowing multiple devices to be hooked up to and controlled by a single computer. This means reduced weight, less maintenance, and fewer computers that need to be connected and synced, all in a rugged design that is built to survive when the friendly skies aren’t so friendly.

The Future and “The Airborne Internet”

The concept of the Airborne Internet first arose in 1999, as part of a NASA planning conference. It envisions aircraft in flight creating a digital data network that allows them to exchange information not only with other aircraft, but with flight control on the ground. As of this writing, several companies have completed proof-of-concept tests and are engaged in further trial runs.

The interconnected planes form a “mesh” network, which means there is no single point of failure the way there is with towers or satellite systems. If the computer in one plane suffers a disruption, the signal simply shifts to the next plane in the link. With redundant data paths, the network becomes more reliable and provides real-time performance for aircraft making use of the system: eliminating the time delay present in satellite-based Internet access. Such a system would cost less than launching satellites into orbit as well.

The Airborne Internet is still more concept than reality at this point, but as the aerospace industry moves forward, it could become the norm in just a few years. Industrial tablets and rugged computers will play a key role in this process. Powerful processing capacity and the ability to handle airborne conditions such as low temperatures and unexpected turbulence makes them ideal for providing in-flight broadband services. Through such PCs, onboard passengers can be given Internet access via tablets in their seats, while pilots can receive vital data concerning weather and ground-to-air communication without suffering any time delay.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers rugged computer systems that can stand up to the tough conditions demanded by the aerospace industry. If you work in the field – or even if you just require a system that can handle similar rigors – contact us today.

 

Medical Device End of Life Cycle

3 Ways to Extend the Life of Legacy Medical Devices

Legacy technology is defined as technology which is no longer produced (or in many cases even supported), but which still functions and can be used. The medical industry is filled with legacy technology, and while it eventually becomes necessary to sundown a given piece of medical tech – retiring it from use and buying a new piece of equipment to put in its place – prudent administrators won’t do so as long as the device continues to work and provide reliable patient care.

Medical computers make an excellent means of getting the most value out of legacy technology: overcoming some of the challenges and difficulties they embody, and ensuring that they can do their jobs as long as possible. The right computer can address the specific problems created by legacy technology, allowing your organization to continue to use it with modern medical grade PCs and similar upgraded equipment. Here’s a quick list of some of the things to look for.

Legacy Ports Keep Older Systems Up to Date

Older technology often uses obsolete ports to connect to other components, such as RS-232 ports. RS stands for “recommended standard,” and the ports themselves entailed rows of pins inserted into fitted holes to make a connection. They were in place on electronic devices starting in 1960, and remained a staple in various configurations for many years, but advancing technology gradually phased them out. USB ports, which are standard on many modern pieces of equipment, are easier to use, provide faster connections and use much less power.

That can cause a problem with legacy devices that still depend on RS-232 to interface with a computer or a printer. It sounds like a comparatively minor problem, but if it can’t be resolved, it may force the organization to replace the device simply to provide interoperability with a modern medical computer… even if the device in question still works just fine from every other perspective.

A modern medical PC with customizable ports can solve that problem quite easily. An RS-232 port (or similarly outdated connection) can be included through an expansion slot for use with a piece of legacy medical equipment, allowing for swift integration and ease of access without having to replace the whole system.

Secure Computers Can Reduce the Security Risks of Legacy Devices

Legacy devices can present unique security concerns in our era of cybernetic intrusion. Data from a medical network can fetch a high price on the black market – even more than credit card numbers – and incidents such as the LabCorp data breach earlier this year are only growing in numbers. A recent report from HealthCare IT news estimated that more than 3 million patient records in the United States were breached between April and June of 2018, and that number is only likely to grow in the future.

On May 31, the American Hospital Association issued a warning to Congress, stating that legacy medical devices are “a key vulnerability for hospitals and health systems.” Many of them were built before such threats were serious, and even those built in the digital age are vulnerable. (Development time from concept to market often takes years, and security measures put into place may become obsolete before the device even hits the market.)

The warning urges hospitals and medical providers to provide their own answers to the problem, rather than waiting for guidance from the government. Yet it also notes that replacing such devices en masse simply isn’t practical for most medical organizations, given the costs involved.

A modern medical all-in-one computer can make a cost-effective solution to the problem and help keep legacy devices protected with updated security measures. Imprivata single sign-on, for instance, uses RFID readers or fingerprint scanners to ensure that only qualified personnel can access the system. Multiple LAN ports allow IT personnel to connect devices to both the internet and an intranet, which allows older devices to communicate with one another without being connected to the outside world. These are just some of the ways that medical grade computers can help secure legacy devices and extend their lifespan.

Multi-Use Devices

Few medical organizations replace or update their computer systems all at once. Instead, it’s usually a piecemeal process delivered in stages, with a few units being replaced at a time. The AHA estimates that many hospitals can only afford to replace about 10 percent of their devices in a given year, and indeed, this “stagger” is one of the reasons why legacy devices continue to be used.

That can create significant problems with a device that can’t properly integrate with the remainder of a medical organization’s network. For example, say a hospital uses a legacy x-ray machine whose DICOM files can’t be read by the most modern computers. If the images generated by that machine are needed on short notice – say, in an operating room – the lack of flexibility can create a huge delay.

All-in-one computers with upgradable options make an elegant “bridge” solution to such issues by interfacing with legacy devices while serving as a connection for newer systems. To take the above example, an all-in-one PC might have the ability to read the x-ray images from the legacy device, convert them into an easily readable format and forward them to a new medical monitor much more quickly and effectively. In so doing, it allows the x-ray machine to continue functioning: letting the hospital get the maximum use from the investment and delaying the day when the machine needs to be replaced.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing produces a high-end line of medical computers that can be customized to work with a wide variety of legacy devices. Contact our team today to learn more.

RFID tablet medical tablet

BYOD Problems? Medical Tablets Are the Answer

BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device, a policy adopted by many businesses allowing for employees to use laptops, cell phones and other personal devices for business use. For organizations without security concerns, it makes an attractive and easy way to get around existing hardware issues. BYODs can save money without reducing efficiency, while giving employees the ability to work remotely in many cases.

Those are powerful incentives. According to a recent article at HealthIT Plus, 71 percent of clinicians report at least some BYOD use at their facilities… sometimes despite policies forbidding them. Such use can come about as a simple matter of necessity, such as a doctor using her cell phone to access hospital records while filling out paperwork at home. Other times, BYOD use arises as part of a coordinated policy on behalf of the hospital, hoping for the same benefits that other businesses enjoy.

But BYOD policies run into serious issues when meeting the demands of a medical facility, and if administrators aren’t careful, it could end up creating more problems than it solves.

For organizations looking to remove BYODs from the equation, and thus solve the issues they can present, the right hardware is a must. Certified medical tablet PCs can often fulfill the same needs as BYOD devices, allowing administrative staff to cut a very thorny Gordian knot cleanly and effectively.

What kind of needs do medical tablets fulfill, and who do they solve the problems created by BYOD? Here’s a short list of some specifics.

Security Can Be Better Maintained with Tablets

Security is a significant concern with medical devices. A patient’s health records can be worth a great deal of money on the black market, even more so than credit card numbers in many cases. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, such data breaches have cost the healthcare industry over $6 billion per year. Obviously, proper security is vital to maintain electronic medical records (EMR) and other data. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) establishes rigorous standards for privacy and security, with heavy fines levied against those who can’t meet those conditions.

For example, the FDA estimates that half of the 3.4 billion mobile phone users in the world have downloaded at least one medical-based application. For medical personnel, that percentage is likely much higher.  Medical organizations can ensure that such devices are HIPAA compliant and operating safely by implementing firewalls and unified threat management software to protect the network in the event of trouble. But BYODs rarely begin their service with such levels of protection, which means they need to be added before they can be considered safe. And when you multiply that potential across an entire organization – every cell phone used by every employee – the prospects for a major security headache multiply along with it.

Medical grade tablets owned and controlled by the organization, on the other hand, can use a single security system, as well as include integrated measures like RFID scanners and biometric readers which most BYODs lack. That not only permits the kind of security protections necessary to remain HIPAA complaint, but it allows staff to access them quickly and easily. And because the devices are dedicated solely to medical work, there’s no concern about overlap from a BYOD’s personal files. It provides better security in the event they are lost or stolen, since it can be much harder to access the data.

Medical Tablets Are Better Protected Against Germs and Illnesses

Illnesses are a constant concern in hospitals and medical facilities, and without proper care being taken, nosocomial infections (infections originating in the hospital and being passed through it) and similar threats can arise very quickly. Mobile devices can easily carry germs and viruses, since medical staff handle them regularly and even carry them from patient to patient. It’s a serious problem. According to the CDC, approximately 1.7 million patients are afflicted with hospital acquired illnesses (HAI) in the U.S. every year, and of those, approximately 99,000 are fatal.

BYOD devices are particularly vulnerable to this. Since they’re intended for consumer use, they lack antimicrobial protection. They usually can’t be disinfected either, since applying liquid to them can cause them to short out and become useless. And if they are used outside the medical facility, there’s no telling what kinds of illnesses can come piggy-backing in when a well-meaning staff member brings it to work.

Medical-grade tablets provide more formal protection against germs and illnesses. Antimicrobial properties baked into their housing helps them repel biological contaminants. In addition, tablets that are IP65 certified can be disinfected with liquid cleansers without running a risk of damage to the tablet itself, which further prevents the spread of illness in a hospital setting.

IT Headaches Go Up with BYOD

Cellphones, personal tablets and consumer PCs at home can come from almost anywhere and entail dozens of different models and systems. That can be a serious handful for your IT department, which needs to keep the devices in your organization maintained and operating. Even something as comparatively mundane as an iPhone update can wreak havoc in a medical environment with BYODs. That, in turn, can waste huge amounts of time and resources as the IT staff struggles to keep numerous different devices updated and coordinated.

Dedicated medical tablet PCs and similar portable devices simplify that issue considerably. An “in-house” system eliminates the morass of hardware and software in favor of a single model and OS. When problems arise, they can be dealt with swiftly. If updates are needed, they can be implemented across the entire network without having to make adjustments. That allows your IT personnel to do their jobs more effectively, and allows them to focus on other pressing issues instead of constantly trying to integrate a new phone or updated OS from a BYOD.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers an array of medically certified tablets and computers for use in a hospital setting. If you’re looking for a solution to the BYOD dilemma, contact us today.