Tag Archives: medical computers

blockchain healthcare data security

Is Blockchain Right for Healthcare?

You may have heard that blockchain is “the next big thing.” And while “next big things” seem to rain from the sky in the tech world, there may be some truth in this particular case.

Blockchain came on the scene in 2008, the brainchild of a still-anonymous person or team of people called “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Despite these tantalizingly mysterious origins, blockchain is well understood and implemented as a distributed ledger to both protect and disseminate important information.

But how does this apply to healthcare?

Does blockchain really have the opportunity to upend how medical computers, EMR, and even clinical studies operate?

What is Blockchain?

The “block” portion of “blockchain” refers to encrypted vaults of information, while the “chain” refers to the connections with other, similar blocks of data.

Blockchain, at its heart, is a way to safeguard digital data by sharing it with thousands of users simultaneously.

The basic idea is that blockchain keeps data safe by keeping it encrypted and redundant, not unlike how iCloud or Dropbox protects files by storing them in multiple locations.

The data is difficult if not impossible to corrupt, because it’s being compared with the same version of the file hosted on every other computer connected to the block. And this checking occurs nonstop, confirming the authenticity of each alteration and transaction.

This is where the term “distributed ledger” comes into the equation. Since everyone can see the changes and transactions done to any data in the block — and who made those changes —  the ledger is secure. It’s like having your own team of perfect, robot accountants auditing your EMR computer hundreds of times a day.

Why is Blockchain Needed in Healthcare?

Primarily, blockchain can help healthcare providers avoid the avalanche of HIPAA violations that have fallen on the industry as of late.

The number of breaches appears to be growing, and with it the price tag of the fines being levied. In 2014, Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital settled a fine for a data breach to the tune of 4.8 million dollars, which at the time was the highest fine ever handed out.

In 2017, Memorial Healthcare System, a Florida-based healthcare group, suffered a data breach that compromised over 115,000 patient and staff records. They were forced to pay a $5.5 million settlement.

But in 2018, Anthem, one of the largest healthcare groups in the world, forked over a record-obliterating 16 million dollars in fines after 78.8 million member records were compromised by hackers.

Either hackers are becoming more adept, IT systems are falling behind, or the amount of digital information in unsecured storage has increased. In all likelihood, all three of these factors are responsible for the rise in both data breaches and ensuing fines.

Since laws and regulations around the country — and indeed, around the world — are only forcing more patient data to be digitized and shared, there’s only one way to securely move forward and protect both patient information and hospital liability: an encrypted, incorruptible distributed ledger like blockchain, with access availability right on the nearest medical cart computer in any exam or patient room?

Implementing Blockchain

Integration with EMR systems and EMR computers is priority one.

As it stands, many healthcare groups are on different EMR programs and standards, making transfer of medical data difficult. This transfer is also a common breach point for hackers and data thieves.

Electronic Medical Records

Unsecured transfer of data is an easy target, which is what makes blockchain so useful. Because data is encrypted, copied, and stored on every computer in the block, there’s no transfer to scoop up. There’s no single vulnerable point that can be hit by DDoS attacks or corrupted by a virus.

The implications of a secure, incorruptible system for electronic medical records point to a potential sea-change in how data is stored. Imagine storing patient consent forms like organ donor consent, living wills, and DNR directives, all easily accessible by the authorized users. Double down on security with a medical computer equipped with two-factor authentication like a smartcard (or RFID, or biometric) scanner and a quick pin code.

That’s a one-two punch of security that can make HIPAA compliance a breeze.

Clinical Trial Data

There are other, far-reaching uses for both secure and easily-accessible data. Clinical trials and medical studies, for instance, are often made difficult by the logistical issues of having to store and collate a wealth of data. In the case of multiple parties contributing to a trial or study, the problem is only compounded.

Then add in that clinicians often to have de-identify the patients in the trials (but also have the ability to re-identify them for implementation or health reasons), and you’ve got a multi-headed hydra of potential data breaches.

Storing clinical study data on a blockchain is a perfect use of the technology and something that health giants like Pfizer and Amgen are already considering.

Blockchain for Preventing Fraud

Of course, not all theft comes in the form of hacking. Both insurance fraud and drug fraud cost hospitals (and sometimes patients) millions of dollars a year.

Preventing Health Insurance Fraud

In 2014, there were 2.3 million cases of medical identity theft, and the number has only been rising ever since.

This identity theft was usually for the purposes of either scoring prescription drugs or for using a patient’s insurance for “free” medical procedures.

This particular form of fraud is particularly devastating because it affects patients and healthcare providers alike, both of whom can have their reputations and finances irreparably damaged.

And, even worse, if the thief does receive treatment, their information (blood type, risk factors, allergies, even diagnoses) can get mingled with the actual patient. If this happens, it could cause incorrect diagnoses, medication complications, or the infusion of incorrectly-typed blood which can seriously injure or even kill someone.

There are even other potential consequences of medical identity theft: a Utah woman, Anndorie Cromar, was nearly arrested (and almost had her children taken away) when an identity thief used her insurance to pay for maternal services. The thief’s baby tested positive for drugs, and since the name on the birth certificate was “Anndorie Cromar,” police and Child Protective Services descended quickly on the wrong person.

The mix-up was eventually sorted out, but not without money, frustration, and what turned out to be the scare of Cromar’s life.

Blockchain technology can mitigate some of the issues — the patient can have an encrypted ID vault on the block, one that the provider can use to make sure that the person standing in front of them is the real policyholder (or the policy holder’s authorized dependents or partner). This ID vault could contain a picture, all ID paperwork, and even biometric data depending on consent and regulations.

Then, the clinician need only check the data against the patient in front of them to prevent most forms of health insurance fraud. They don’t even need to be sitting at a computer — they could grab a nearby medical tablet and pull up the data then and there.

Tracking Drugs and Eliminating Counterfeits

The nature of blockchain’s distributed ledger is a perfect match for inventory and drug-tracking all throughout the supply chain.

The “Drug Supply Chain Security” act, established in 2013, mandates electronic drug tracking in the United States. A secure solution like blockchain is practically custom-built for verifying drug transactions, authenticating barcodes, and keeping every step of the shipping and use chain fully recorded and protected from illegal tampering.

Medical computers with integrated barcode scanners streamline the process. If you already have a USB-powered barcode scanner, medical panel PCs are capable of powering those peripherals on their own, just from the built-in batteries of the PC itself.

Those same medical PCs can also come with built-in two-factor authentication, making them compatible with the SUPPORT bill and a vital tool in combating the opioid crisis.

Combining Blockchain and Healthcare

Blockchain isn’t a perfect panacea to cure all data security problems forever, but its secure, incorruptible nature (combined with staff education and good network hygiene) makes it an excellent solution to many of healthcare’s current data-handling issues.

To learn more about integrating blockchain with EMR and secure medical computers, contact Cybernet today.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Increasing Patient Engagement Improves Patient Outcomes

Patient engagement means the patient is doing more than just popping in for yearly checkups and going home without another thought toward their health.

It means transforming from a passive consumer into an active member of the team devoted to promoting health.

Educating Patients Leads to Compliance

The first step to patient engagement is education.

We know doctors and healthcare professionals are busy, facing mountains of paperwork and seemingly endless streams of patients. The shortage of healthcare professionals is also real.

However, taking the time to educate the patient on their condition can save them from coming back to your office next week or next month with exacerbated medical issues. Don’t just tell them to “stretch their wrist three times a day.” That information is easily filed away alongside “drink eight glasses of water” and “don’t go swimming after you eat.”

Instead, show the patient a diagram of the wrist on a nearby monitor or medical computer, and point out how tendon gliding can alleviate some of the symptoms, and why it works. More importantly, tell them what can happen to the tendons if they don’t do the recommended stretches.

Help Patients Educate Themselves

Another way to save time and increase patient compliance and education is to offer a bedside or in-room medical computer terminal that the patient has limited access to. It could even be the terminal that’s already in the room, with a patient-specific login.

From it, the patient could pull up their new prescriptions and learn how often they have to take their medication. They could remind themselves how to take it: with water, with food, or only in the morning.

The patient could even access information on what the drug does and how it helps. Again, “take this pill because I said so” is never going to sink in like “take this pill so your veins don’t get so small you can’t move blood around your body anymore.”

You could use such a terminal to give the patient all sorts of useful information – what food to eat, what beverages to stay away from, how often they need to take a walk around the facility. This last one could come with an alarm or reminder.

You could even show them a video or animated graphic that visually outlines a procedure they’re either considering or about to undergo.  

This doesn’t only have to be available bedside, either. For a situation like a doctor’s office, a kiosk or medical tablet in the waiting room could allow patients to log in and learn all of this information as well.

Stay in Touch to Stop Unnecessary Appointments

The next step is communication.

When the patient knows “there are no stupid questions,” they’ll be far more likely to come to you when they have a healthcare problem.

And, if you’re active on social media, have a text help or nursing line, or regularly share your email with your patients, they’ll also reach out to you remotely with small matters instead of either ignoring them (which is bad for their health) or scheduling an unnecessary appointment (which eats time and resources for all involved).

Many providers and offices use patient portals, an automated system that allows patients to contact their doctor or doctor’s office through a safe, secure channel.

Leveraging Communication Technology

Think of that bedside medical computer or medical monitor from the example earlier in this article. Not only could it be used for convenient patient education, but also to facilitate communication.

Imagine a patient using the medical computer to call the nurse’s station, and instead of a beeping light or buzzing speaker the nurse can actually see the patient face-to-face and address their concerns without leaving the desk. Not only will the patient feel more comfortable knowing they have that kind of access, but it could increase efficiency across the board.

Instead of running back and forth between rooms to find out what’s the matter when a patient rings, one nurse could be in charge of this form of communication with every room.

That triage nurse could then dispatch nurses where they’re most needed, saving them time and energy that could be best spent somewhere else.

Patient Satisfaction Strengthens Patient Engagement

This is where patient satisfaction ties in with patient engagement: patients are more likely to partner with their doctor and medical team if they are happy.

Studies and surveys have shown that patients who score higher on satisfaction and engagement metrics like the “Patient Activation Measure” are “significantly more likely than people who score lower to engage in preventive behavior such as regular check-ups, screenings, and immunizations.”

It’s basic human psychology — we disregard the advice and opinions of people we don’t like. It’s the basis for most of the unrest on social media.

So, imagine a patient who feels they’ve had a horrible experience at the hospital. They’re angry at the doctor, angry at the nurses, and they want to leave. Then, the doctor lets them know they can’t eat red meat anymore, or that they should get some exercise, or instructs them how and when to change the bandages, there’s a good chance the patient isn’t even listening anymore. Or, if they are listening, they’ve decided the doctor/staff/hospital is clearly a mess, and doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

This, in turn, leads to the patient not following the instructions, which can drastically affect their future health. The patient is not engaged, and, in fact, may be actively going against their own health because they’re angry or feeling ignored.

As you can see, patient satisfaction isn’t just about dollars and numbers — it directly affects the long-term health of the patient.

The Key to Patient Engagement

It takes both sides of the healthcare equation to make patient engagement a reality – patient participation and clinician support.

To find out more about how to leverage medical computers and tablets to improve patient outcomes you can contact Cybernet today.

How Medical Computers can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Prescription opioids have been in the news quite a bit lately. Congress just recently passed sweeping legislation, commonly known as the SUPPORT bill, to help combat the opioid epidemic that has been on the rise the past several years. According to studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 115 people per day are dying from opioid abuse. Overdoses have been on a steady rise throughout the country the past several years.

The legislation provides funding for non-opioid painkiller research, funding for addiction treatment programs, as well as reforms for how prescriptions are given and tracked. While these measure are widely praised by medical experts, as well as both political parties as a great step in the right direction, there are still several present day challenges that need to be overcome.

Imprivata and DigiCert Lead the Charge in Electronic Prescription Technology

Because opioid painkillers are considered a controlled substance, physicians traditionally haven’t been allowed to prescribe these medications electronically unless they met certain federal guidelines. Unfortunately, paper prescriptions can be doctored and patients often engaged in “doctor shopping” to fill multiple prescriptions for the same medication. This exacerbated the opioid crisis.

In 2010 the DEA passed the Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) guidelines, which has been a game changer. Any practitioner that met EPCS guidelines could electronically prescribe opioid painkillers. What this does is help secure prescriptions, as they go directly from the doctor to the pharmacy. It also creates an audit trail of who is prescribing these medications, as well creating an audit trail for patient behavior making it more difficult for addicts to doctor shop trying to get multiple prescriptions for the same ailments.

One of the key guidelines for a healthcare practitioner to become EPCS compliant is to have two factor authentication set up in their EHR or prescription system. That’s where Imprivata and DigiCert have stepped in. Imprivata is a healthcare-focused security firm that specializes in single sign on technology for healthcare facilities. DigiCert is an SSL certificate authority. The two companies have teamed up to create an automated identity proofing process called Imprivata Confirmed ID, that makes compliance with the FDA’s EPCS program much easier to attain.

Unfortunately, Healthcare Facilities are Lagging Behind

Following the passage of EPCS, pharmacies were quick to adopt best practices in order to be compliant. According to a survey conducted by Tableau in October of 2018, 95% of commercial pharmacies nationwide are EPCS enabled. By comparison, only 30% of prescribers nationwide are EPCS enabled. This massive gap is slowing down efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Thankfully things are changing for the better. Currently 13 states have passed laws to mandate EPCS compliance. In addition, the SUPPORT bill mandates EPCS compliance for all Medicare Part D prescriptions by 2021. This should help close the gap between prescribers and pharmacies.

How Can Healthcare Facilities and Doctor’s Offices Gain Compliance?

Two factor authentication is the key to EPCS. Medical grade computers and medical grade tablets with integrated RFID readers, barcode scanners and smart card readers are already set up to be Imprivata certified, which is a major advantage over commercial grade computers that don’t offer these features. Because these units are already Imprivata compliant, falling in line with the Confirm ID process should be much easier. The two factor authentication ensures that only the prescribing physician can log into an approved EMR application and send an opioid prescription to a pharmacy. Without this, compliance with EPCS is impossible.

At Cybernet, all of our medical grade computers and tablets are engineered to have optional two-factor authentication features integrated directly into the device. We only use Imprivata certified components, ensuring a smooth transition to an EPCS enabled solution. For more questions, you can contact us here.

Breaking Down the ROI of Medical Computers

It can be difficult for an IT department in any industry to convince a CFO to write a bigger check for computer hardware. The fact remains that medical grade computers are going to be more expensive than a commercial grade computer. But it is also important to understand that IT hardware is, at a minimum, a 5-year investment. So when you are planning your IT budget, you need to look at it from a long-term view rather than a short-term expense.

In this blog, we are going to provide you with some ammunition to take with you to your next budget meeting to help you understand the true ROI of medical grade computers.

Understanding MTBF: All Computers are Not Created Equally

MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failure, is a measure of how long a piece of equipment will typically last. A desktop computer has a lifespan of 3-5 years in a “typical” office environment. A hospital is anything but typical, however. In an office, a computer might be running for 8-10 hours at a time 5 days per week, before being shut down for the rest of the day. A hospital is 24/7, 365. That’s like driving your car home from work, then parking it on a giant treadmill, and leaving it in gear overnight while you sleep. The engine is going to wear down a lot quicker in that scenario. When you consider a 24/7 work cycle, that 3-5 year estimate ends up being closer to 1-2 years before you need to replace your hardware.

A fanless medical computer is made with industrial grade components that are specifically designed for 24/7 use. And because of the fanless design, there are fewer moving parts, meaning fewer points of failure. Keeping out dust is another way to extend the life of a computer. Eliminating the fan goes a long way towards accomplishing that, but an IP65 rating is also important. IP65 is an international standard that measures a devices protection against dust and water intrusion. Not only does this keep out dust, but considering how often hospital equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected, keeping out liquids will also extend the life of your computer.

Spending half as much on a commercial grade computer today really isn’t a cost savings if you have to replace those computers 2 or 3 times over the course of 5 years instead of simply investing in a medical grade computer that won’t need to be replaced.

Eliminating 3rd Party Dongles

Hospitals and healthcare facilities have needs that go far beyond processing power and memory. HIPAA and other regulations are a constant concern for HIT managers. Two-factor authentication is quickly becoming the standard in hospitals across the country, and some states require it by law. If you invest in commercial grade computers, that means 3rd party attachments. You can find RFID and fingerprint readers for fairly cheap, but they may not be Imprivata certified – which is the standard two-factor authentication software. They also are easy to lose and break, and they take up valuable port space that could be used to integrate the computer with other devices.

Look for medical computers that have integrated RFID and biometric readers built in. More importantly, look for medical computers that are Imprivata certified. This will help you stay compliant with HIPAA data privacy concerns. It also completely eliminates the need to invest in 3rd part attachments. That might mean removing hundreds of devices out of circulation that would otherwise fall under the purview of your IT team to maintain, saving a lot of time and money.

Overcoming Break/Fix IT

In a lot of organizations, IT is viewed as a necessary evil. You need to keep hardware and software up and running to ensure productivity, but the department itself is rarely able to engage in revenue-generating activities. This is because there are literally hundreds of devices that IT is responsible to manage and maintain, and HIT staff is typically inundated with maintenance requests.

As we mentioned above, medical grade computers can eliminate the break/fix mentality that organizations place on IT departments. More reliable computers with industrial grade components are one piece of the puzzle. Eliminating 3rd party attachments is another. When you have a computer that simply works and maintains a long lifespan, it will free up a lot of time for your IT team to work on other projects that actually generate revenue.

Imagine having an IT team that has the time to speak with different departments to understand their challenges, and then devise systems designed specifically to improve those processes. Or having a team that can spend time aggregating data from different silos of information into actionable intel. You might even want to create patient portals or other ways of communicating with patients to improve outcomes. All of these activities can improve efficiency, grow the bottom line, and improve patient care. But they take time to implement. If your IT team isn’t constantly backlogged with maintenance requests, they have the time to take on these types of projects.

Reduce Expenditure on Medical Carts

Medical Carts, or workstations on wheels, are a staple in hospitals. Nurses and doctors rely on them to perform rounds and enter patient information in EMR software. Traditionally, a battery powered cart would power the computer, which allowed healthcare practitioners to go room to room with a consistent power supply. Powered carts are extremely expensive, however. Often times as much as 5x as expensive as a non-powered cart.

Medical cart computers powered by hot-swap batteries eliminate the need for a powered cart. Because the computer runs on its own battery power, and batteries can be swapped out on the fly with fresh ones, hospitals can invest in a less expensive alternative without sacrificing any functionality. In fact, even though a medical cart computer is more expensive than a thin client PC, when paired with a non-powered cart the savings can reach as much as 40% in initial savings. That doesn’t take into account additional maintenance costs associated with keeping a powered cart operational.

When it comes to IT hardware, any investment needs to be assessed over the long term. When analyzing total costs over a five year period it becomes clear that the ROI is better when investing in medical grade computers. For more information, or if you have any questions you can contact Cybernet here.

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.

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.

What Makes Medical-Grade Monitors Different from Commercial Monitors?

Computer monitors have become an integral part of our lives, not only at home and work, but in every facet of society today. You see them at the grocery store checkout line when the clerks scan your food, at the gas station pumps when you fill your tank, and even at parking kiosks to scan your ticket when you go out for the evening. We’re surrounded by screens and monitors, and that saturation extends into the medical field as well.

Hospitals and similar care providers use computers as a matter of course, and that means medical-grade monitors to provide display screens for PCs. They’re ubiquitous in most healthcare facilities — one to a bed in many cases, plus additional units in operating rooms, nurse’s stations, and the like — and with the advent of electronic medical records (EMR) and similar software, they’re becoming more important than ever. Modern facilities absolutely depend on them for relaying important information to healthcare providers and coordinating efforts throughout often complex organizations.

Yet medical facilities have different needs than commercial endeavors, and a simple out-of-the box monitor won’t be able to meet them properly. There are some distinct differences that medical LCD monitors offer that set them apart, and help ensure that a given hospital or similar facility operates at maximum efficiency.

Specific Imaging Needs for a Medical Environment

Imaging information is vital to medical care. Common procedures often require detailed imaging for things like X-rays and endoscopies, allowing doctors to make an accurate assessment of the patient’s condition and offer an informed diagnosis. A commercial-grade 4K monitor can usually provide such accuracy, but hospitals and medical facilities often require more than just sharp images, and a commercial monitor simply can’t account for such needs.

For instance, operating rooms have overhead lights that can create severe glare and limit a physicians’ ability to see the information they need on the screen. That can be devastating in circumstances where time is a factor or where hands might not be free to make the needed adjustments to the screen position. A medical-grade monitor can correct that issue with anti-glare and anti-reflective properties, which allow you to perceive the screen accurately without having to deal with glare from nearby lights.

Furthermore, medical staff don’t always have the luxury of privacy when viewing on-screen records. Information and diagnoses sometimes need to be made in places where sensitive information can easily be viewed by people without the proper credentials, such as when a doctor or nurse accesses a monitor mounted near a patient’s bed. The patient — or even visiting friends and relatives — can inadvertently get a look at private files in such circumstances. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) can levy large fines for breaches in privacy, even when they are inadvertent.

Here, too, a good medical monitor can provide vital assistance. A privacy filter can be embedded directly into the device, which effectively “blacks out” the information for those looking at the screen from an angle (in other words, anyone expect the person directly using the medical computer). That allows doctors and nurses to examine whatever records they need wherever they need them, without worrying about the wrong set of eyes gaining a side glance.

Medical Monitors are Safe and Hygienic

The number-one concern for any piece of hardware in a hospital setting is whether it’s safe for use around patients. That means that it doesn’t emit radiation or similarly harmful energy, which can affect not only the patient’s health but the operation of other key pieces of equipment too. For example, X-ray machines need to be certified so that they don’t emit harmful radiation that could harm patients or staff members. Medical monitors need to be subject to the same standards. UL/IEC 60601-1 certification (or the European equivalent, EN 60601-1) means that the monitor is safe for near-patient use and won’t disrupt other medical equipment while it works.

Furthermore, germs and bacteria can spread as staff members handle the screen and adjust the controls. Nosocomial infections — those created in and spreading through medical facilities — are an important concern for any healthcare organizations. Yet cleaning monitors of any sort can be tricky, since liquid can quickly turn the unit into a large paperweight. That causes problems if you need to use a liquid cleanser to disinfect the surface. Ideally, any monitor you use will be IP65 certified, which means it’s protected against liquids and can be properly cleaned without damaging it. In addition, look for units with an anti-microbial housing, which repels germs and keeps the hardware clean in a hospital setting.

Touchscreen Technology Make LCD Monitors Easy to Use

The growing use of EMRs and similar software means that more and more more data can be summoned and cross-referenced directly on the screen. Medical professionals need to be able to access such information quickly, and touchscreen technology allows users to control the data simply by swiping their fingers across it.

More specifically, touchscreens can eliminate the need for keyboards and mouse controls, which means a less cluttered work space and a reduction in cumbersome (and sometimes even dangerous) cables. It also means fewer devices for IT to maintain as well as fewer devices that can spread germs. That can be invaluable in busy hospital settings, especially with medical cart computers and workstations on wheels, which benefit from a reduction in cable clutter. In addition, screens that use PCAP (projected capacitive) technology can be used with surgical gloves without issue. PCAP technology also allows for pinch-zooming and two-finger swiping, letting you access the information you need without a lot of awkward fumbling.

 

Cybernet Manufacturing offers dedicated medical-grade monitors to go along with their line of hospital computers. If you’re in the market, contact us today for more information!

4 Ways Workstations on Wheels Improve Hospital Care

They’re called workstations on wheels, or WOWs: mobile medical carts, either powered or non-powered, that allow nurses and other personnel to move from bedside to bedside with medical computer systems in tow. They’re rapidly becoming a staple in healthcare operations of all varieties, part of a larger wave of technological innovation that is revolutionizing the way we treat the sick and injured.

WoWs are designed not only to enhance the efficiency of hospital staff, but to provide better care for patients and improve the overall treatment experience. They come with a variety of designs and features, but all of them should have the same basic goals in mind: saving your staff time and energy, and letting them focus on patient care. Here’s a quick list of 4 ways a good medical equipment cart can do that.

Patient Charting with a Computer on Wheels

Paperwork is the bane of most hospital staff members and patient charting can be an extremely time-consuming process. A recent study by the National Institute of Health maintained that nurses spend an average of two hours a day on charting and similar record-keeping duties. Paper charts need to organize and unify a great deal of information, which makes them extremely vulnerable to human error. Ideally, charting should take place very quickly after visiting the patient: within an hour or so. The more time that goes by, the easier it is to make mistakes and the more likely those mistakes will have an impact on other aspects of your operation.

Electronic medical records (EMR) provide a theoretical solution to the problem, but they need to be accessed by a computer station, which isn’t always possible when making the rounds. It’s not uncommon for a nurse to do her rounds and then chart everything into the EMR at the nurses station, which is inefficient and takes time away from patient care. A medical cart computer solves that issue by allowing healthcare provider to simply bring the computer with them. It also permits the staff to use barcode scanners on patient wristbands and similar forms of ID. That, in turn, provides swift and accurate information while allowing your staff to do patient charting as they go instead of having to wait for long periods of time before documenting the information properly.

Making Medical Devices Mobile

There are often times when a patient is too sick to comfortably move to other departments of the hospital, or a doctor might order heart or respiratory monitoring tests that can easily be performed bedside. It is important that the medical devices entrusted to perform these tests can be brought into the patient room without the need to plug things in, connect to monitors or clutter what is typically an already small space. 

Medical carts are often used in conjunction with medical devices for exactly this reason. A lightweight powered cart will often be used to power a medical device like an ultrasound machine or respiratory monitor, plus the medical computer that runs the device. The maneuverability of these carts make it easy for a technician to take the device to the patient, rather than the other way around, which can drastically improve patient care and get tests run faster and more efficiently. 

 

Secure, Accurate Medication Dispensing

Proper handling and dispensation of medication is one of the most important parts of hospital care: ensuring that each patient gets the medicine they need in the required dose at the right time. That relies on the hospital staff keeping accurate track of all the medication through the entire process, including recording the dosage in the patient’s chart once it’s taken.

A medication dispensing cart with locking drawers can help improve this process, while ensuring accuracy and security. Each patient is assigned a drawer with the precise medication needs. The drawers are locked and coded to the patient’s ID badge or wristband. A bar code scanner or similar device can be used to scan the patient’s ID when the caregiver arrives at their bedside, and unlock the pertinent drawer containing the meds. That ensures that there are no mistakes in this all-important aspect of patient care, and that the dosage and time of dosing can be quickly entered into the patient’s records with the cart’s computer.

Medical Carts can Improve the Patient Experience

Anyone who has spent any time in the hospital knows that the cafeteria food won’t win any culinary awards. But what is worse than the food is getting the wrong order or a tray of food you can’t eat, leading to having to wait even longer for a meal. Though less dire than dispensing the wrong medication, a patients dietary needs pose their own health challenges. Some patients have dietary restrictions based on their treatment; others may have previously existing conditions such as a dairy allergy, or require a kosher meal because of their religion. A lot of hospitals still use paper menus that the patient fills out, and are then collected. This poses a number of problems. The wrong menu might get distributed to a patient, or the patient selects an item that they can’t eat due to doctor orders or allergies. An order could get lost or misplaced, leading to a patient not getting fed, or having to wait for the error to be discovered and corrected. 

WoWs can address that the same way they address medication. A barcode scanner connected to the medical computer can scan the patient’s ID to check for specialty diets or anything that might present a problem, ensuring that there are no mistakes. Staff members can select the food the patient wants from the available options, skipping the need for hand-written orders and streamlining the entire process as a result.

Cybernet Manufacturing offers a wide variety of turnkey medical cart solutions that can be paired with any of our medical grade computers. To find a solution that meets your needs and your budget, contact our team today!