The financial climate in the US healthcare is currently termed as “an acute funding crisis.” With severe budget cuts in hospital payments, the healthcare system is under a great pressure. On the one hand, the Affordable Care Act urges facilities to adopt healthcare IT such as EMRs and increase the digitization of the workflow. Medicare & Medicaid are shifting from fee-for-service to value-based incentives rewarding cost-effective patient care and high quality. On the other hand, the budget cuts aren’t helping hospitals make the necessary investment in healthcare IT. Hospitals are seeking ways to reduce spending, comply with the regulations and provide better healthcare at the same time.
Science and technology are key enablers in finding ways of improving the quality and efficiency of care and reducing cost. The effective use of technology helps hospitals tackle the budgeting challenge with the all-in-one, multi-purpose devices. Traditional, consumer computers and laptops are giving way to medical all-in-ones while the advent of mobile technologies sees a wide adoption of medical mobile devices.
Medical all-in-one PCs are transformers of sorts, so no wonder healthcare facilities are solving the problem of space constraints through ergonomic solutions. A computer that has been designed for medical use can be mounted on a wall, on a cart, on the desktop, or at the patient bedside, in operating rooms, intensive care units. Standard VESA holes allow for the easy installation in most hospital areas in a simple, affordable manner.
Hardware providers are looking to cater increasingly customizable solutions. Healthcare facilities can order no cost disk imaging, so their computers are shipped with their operating system of choice complete with their enterprise license. This also means the computers come with zero bloatware and the complete productivity suite already installed. It significantly reduces the strain on the overloaded hospital IT staff, reducing the time and cost of the deployment of new devices.
A medical all-in-one computer or tablet gets naturally integrated into the existing ecosystem of a healthcare facility, further cutting the deployment costs. For example, integration with EMR charting systems such as EPIC, eClinical, Cerner, Meditech and Nextgen, or anesthesia applications does not require additional resources.
A seamless integration also suggests the device’s compatibility with legacy hardware. Support for legacy equipment brings a unified, connected data flow to a medical computer, and when used in conjunction with cloud sync, it provides the personnel with a timely access to critical information about all episodes of care and relevant tests, conditions and reading from the legacy equipment.
It is one thing when decision-makers introduce new technology with the aim to cut a facility’s spending, but it is a different story when the end user on the front line has to make that device work. From that perspective, Windows-based all-in-one computers and tablets require a minimum investment of time or funds. The touchscreen technology has been in the arena for quite a while now, and healthcare workers have been using their personal devices for work during the past few years now (BYOD). Windows-based touchscreens in all-in-one computers and tablets are easy-to-use. They represent the touch-based variant of their traditional desktop computers, so the only aspect requiring additional instructions would be the use of integrated peripherals and biometric authentication.
Serving Multiple Purposes & Streamlining Workflow
The use of data in and of itself is a great enabler of healthcare modernization through:
- boosting medical automation
- meaningful use of EHR
- remote patient vitals monitoring
- reducing errors and avoidable overuse such as duplicate tests
- advancing telemedicine and as a result reducing readmissions and preventable admissions
- providing connectivity and timely access to data
Security, Tracking, Automating
The technology that serves multiple purposes integrates a few more cost effective solutions:
- integrated biometric readers/fingerprint scanners that safeguard sensitive records
- integrated RFID reader for enhanced patient and inventory tracking
- integrated CAC/ smart card reader for secure user authentication
- integrated Barcode reader for a multitude of applications
While biometric readers and smart cards serve the purpose of secure user authentication, RFID and barcode technology has a significantly wider adoption in healthcare – from medication tracking to patient identification, anti-abduction and anti-elopement, counterfeit programs and much more.
Mobility, Patient Monitoring and Involvement
Medical mobile tablets push the boundaries even further. Because they are rugged, they are mounted in ambulance vehicles and used on the go by the first responders. In hospitals, they empower doctors and nurses via a meaningful use of EHR and patient vitals tracking. A medical tablet is widely used by doctors for patient tracking and EMR, and by patients for infotainment, which has proved to increase patient satisfaction significantly.
Through the use of HELP and Apache applications and an integrated barcode scanner in medical mobile tablets, doctors reduce prescription and diagnostic errors, enhance medication prescription and dispensing, as well as streamline prescription issuing.
Fail Rate, Cost of Ownership, Lifespan
The true ROI of healthcare IT is best seen in the long-term perspective, the so-called cumulative impact or “productivity paradox of IT.” Medical computers and tablets that are at par with the industry requirements have a lifespan significantly longer than that of the consumer counterparts used in healthcare.
The increased lifespan is possible due to the low fail rates of medical all-in-ones and tablets, less than 2%. Quality, military-grade components ensure the durability and dependable MTBF of the discreet parts. In some cases, a fanless build adds even more to the equation by eliminating moving parts and deploying a passive cooling system.
Hence, the low fail rate and long lifespan of medical all-in-ones reduce maintenance, repair and replacements costs otherwise inevitable with consumer-grade computers.
HIPAA, HITECH, IDC et al. add more strain on the hospitals’ budgets – compliance and liabilities stemming from non-compliance. Data protection and prevention of nosocomial infections are high on the agenda for healthcare facilities. Failure to deploy adequate means of data protection such as encryption and proper user authentication may result in significant fines. Likewise, high rates of hospital-acquired infections account for the bigger part of hospital readmissions. Not to mention how they affect the patient satisfaction.
Medical computers and tablets now address both of these nagging issues. Data security – through integrated biometric or CAC readers, nosocomial infections – through antimicrobial housing and touchscreen.
Even though the cost of delivering quality healthcare is spiraling, the effective use of ergonomic technology that serves multiple purposes helps hospitals reduce costs in both short- and long-term perspective.