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medical computers and their role with patient engagement in telehealth

Here’s How Telehealth is Revolutionizing the Way We Practice Healthcare

Telehealth is a topic under heavy study because it’s extremely effective at reducing time and streamlining processes for medical care. It’s a complex umbrella term that addresses physician to patient interaction, how medical records are viewed and delivered, physician care and outreach, patient infotainment systems, and other important factors. One key aspect of telehealth is patient engagement technology which we are seeing improve over time with the rise of smaller, faster medical computers. Here are some ways patient engagement technology is changing telehealth and making healthcare more convenient for everyone.

Virtual Appointments are a Reality with Medical Computers

Online videoconferencing is the first telehealth innovation that comes to mind. It’s still a common practice for people to schedule appointments months in advance for an initial diagnosis and then follow-up appointments to treat or cure an ailment. If a patient needs information from a nurse, it still requires an appointment, more waiting, travel, another waiting room, etc. With the rise of telehealth, patients are able to skip waiting rooms and connect with a doctor or nurse via videoconference with a computer in nursing. If live appointments aren’t available, patients can still leave video messages and possibly show progress of a medicine’s effect. Nurses can hold “question and answer” sessions to keep patients informed and use visual aids to help patients understand their health complications. Plus, medical records can be updated on-the-fly using EMR software, streamlining the process from patient feedback to updating medical records. Growing advancements in this field have strengthened the interconnectivity of rural areas with hospitals. According to an online source published in 2012 called The Role of Telehealth in an Evolving Health Care Environment, telehealth reduces cost and increases quality of care for patients that can’t easily access the nearest hospital. A recent dermatology study showed physicians were able to increase their patient head count by approximately 270 per month with virtual appointments. Virtual appointments are a growing trend and studies reflect it!

Online Patient Portals are More Common

Patients in rural areas don’t always have the luxury of stopping by a clinic to get medical record printouts, so now there are online patient portals dedicated to showing medical records. Patients can even take questionnaires to narrow down a medicinal recommendation from a physician, request prescription refills, look at bill and payment history, or communicate directly with nurses in an orderly system to relay information about healthcare developments. As reported from the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, over 60 percent of hospitals let their patients view, download, and transfer their health data in 2014. It’s a real growing trend now because of technological advancements with medical computers and web-based interfaces that take the waiting process out of healthcare.

Medical Computers Have Started Remote Patient Monitoring

Patients of all types struggle with time and keeping proper records for a doctor’s evaluation. Diabetics must watch their diet and monitor their blood glucose levels to track their health records. Clinically obese individuals transfer their caloric burn rate to doctors, necessitating another appointment, more travel, and more waiting rooms. It’s the same across the board for individuals with limited lung function, insomnia, heart palpitations, dementia, and other patients with measurable results of their health problems. With the advent of telehealth, remote patient monitoring can be automated and sent to a physician almost immediately. It’s all done within the medical computer, streamlining the process of getting information to the doctors without human error introduced.  The benefits have showed in research as well. As before, the key aspect to telehealth is patient engagement, and keeping patients informed through doctors’ notes and information about their illnesses has shown increased rates of consistent medicine ingestion and other metrics. There are interactive disease management programs in the field (BeWell Mobile for instance) that let patients send their vital signs to their providers electronically with quick recommendations from their providers on what to do if their symptoms flare up. Another excellent example is called the Virtual Dental Home, a telehealth program that lets dental health professionals transfer information between each other to assist patients in remote locations.

Patient Engagement Solutions are Integrated into Hospitals

One of the most desired aspects of telehealth is connecting inpatients to their families during their (hopefully short) hospital stay. Patient infotainment systems are a standard in hospitals because hospital guests can remotely connect with anyone they desire over the internet, along with ordering food, watching movies, or calling staff when necessary. It’s part of the entire patient engagement package, ensuring patients are well-educated on their ailments so they understand their role in self-care.

These are all results of advancement in medical computer technology pushing telehealth to expand healthcare reach, cut down on waiting time, streamline communication, provide remote monitoring, increase patient engagement, connect patients remotely with doctors and family, and deliver an overall better patient care experience.

 

 

Understanding the Unique Requirements for Medical Computers in a Hospital Setting

Hospitals gather a large population of infected individuals in one place, so it’s difficult to keep nosocomial infections from happening. That requires different standards for hospital operation and use of equipment. One of the largest reasons for hospital beds and rooms filling up is the invisible agent—microbes and bacteria that pass on unwanted viruses and pathogens that can quickly affect a small population. Since medical computers and devices operate with patient care in mind, careful consideration of a device’s build, materials, controlling software, and other factors must pass FDA regulations and meet necessary standards. Plus, medical care is not just a “part time” task. Hospitals operate on a round-the-clock schedule—a health-related disaster can strike at a moment’s notice, especially within an intensive care unit. These specific reasons why medical computers and devices are unique to the hospital environment are examined in detail here.

Medical Computers Need Antimicrobial Housings

Medical grade computers are built with either an antimicrobial coating sprayed onto the device post production or include an antimicrobial resin mixed into the plastic housing during manufacturing. But what exactly does that mean? Antimicrobial is an umbrella term that describes a range of abilities that disinfect and ward off growth of microorganisms, often times originating from bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitical natures. The benefit of these medical computer builds is that even with passing microbes from surface to surface, the plastic housing of these medical computers discourages microbe growth. After multiple uses from several medical professionals, a computer built with antimicrobial plastics can still help prevent the spread of germs without constant disinfection. Recent news reports detail there was a bacterial outbreak at a nationally renowned hospital that infected ten patients, thankfully none of which were fatal. The patients were infants. An online report that detailed research into an Army ICU revealed MRSA bacteria living on keyboards, a problem that could have been alleviated with antimicrobial materials. It’s clear to see why medical computers require antimicrobial housing.

Medical Grade Computers Need to Meet Standards

One might ask what kind of regulations hardware and software might need for a hospital. A lot of consumer off-the-shelf products, both hardware and software, aren’t safe for patient and medical use. Consider what the implications could be using buggy software on a medical device! For that reason there are several rules, regulations, and standards for medical devices, some set by the International Electrotechnical Commission. One of the most accepted standards is the 60601-1 electrical and radiation standard, addressing verification, design methodology, risk / safety assessment for patients and staff, and other factors. It’s not possible to determine the total number of test cases for final revisions of hardware, which is why this standard is in place. Every revision this standard goes through brings significant changes to how medical grade computers and other devices must be built, often times focusing on the medical device’s operational distance to the patient. There are three distance classifications for the standard: B, BF, and CF. Type B operates near the patient, BF makes contact with the patient, and CF makes contact with a patient’s heart. Any medical device, whether in close vicinity or making contact with the patient, must meet the standards for safety. The FDA ensures medical grade computers and devices pass these standards for the safety of patients and the professionals that use them under the 510(k) regulation, requiring that manufacturers demonstrate their product is safe. There are a number of manufacturers that claim to have medical grade products, but haven’t actually been independently tested. Be sure to do your homework before any major hardware deployment.

Hospitals Need to Operate 24/7

Hospitals need to operate on a 24/7 timeline. Fortunately, the medical grade computers in question can operate with those time demands. It’s not just a matter of having a computer that’s always on—it’s a question of the computer’s internal components and if they’re intended to be on 24/7. For instance, many medical computers have an emergency back-up battery installed in order to remain functional during a power outage. Imagine if the power went out, all medical computers shut down, and all that patient data was lost! Even though most hospitals are equipped with backup generators, the seconds between a power outage and the generators coming online could result in massive data loss. Medical computers with hot swappable batteries eliminate the need to be reliant on an AC power source completely. These computers are powered by removable batteries and can provide up to 16 hours of run time before you need to exchange the batteries.

Medical grade computers cannot operate in the same manner that consumer-grade computers do; the implications of losing data, hardware malfunction, overheating, spread of germs, and other factors are far too great to sacrifice for patients. Plus, computers with moving parts are more likely to malfunction, especially under 24/7 operation.

One Must Consider the Application as Well

Even within a hospital, different departments have different needs. Operating rooms, labs, and ICU units are often sterile environments. In these environments,  a fanless medical computer would be required. To achieve fanless operation without overheating, these computers need to be built with specialized components that commercial grade manufacturers aren’t willing to invest in. The fanless operation prevents to spread of dust and germs through the air, which could be a major contamination concern in these high specialized areas.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to stop all nosocomial infections. For the world we live in, it’s important to use the right tools for hospital use to avoid spreading infection, keep patients safe, and operate at a moment’s notice without a high risk of failure. The published studies show that these are factors required by all hospitals to operate in the best manner possible.

medical grade PCs

Extending the Life of Medical Equipment with Medical Grade PCs

The IT challenges and needs for a healthcare facility are far different than those of a traditional enterprise. Mobility, EMR compatibility, 24/7 operability as well as the need to mitigate the transfer of germs and disease must all be factored in. But even within the healthcare space, needs can vary tremendously. Consider the differences between a hospital in a large metropolitan area vs. a hospital in a rural area. In a lot of rural areas, medical facilities don’t have the luxury of large budgets or the ability to upgrade medical equipment as regularly as a larger hospital in a more densely populated area might have. Extending the life of that machinery in a cost efficient manner is vital for these types of facilities in order to provide the very best in patient care without breaking the bank.

A customer of ours recently reached out to us to let us know how they have managed to extend the life of their mobile x-ray units by integrating a medical grade computer. Their solution turned out to be a stroke of genius, and allowed their facility to move from the analog age into the digital age.

Mobility Matters in Medical Grade Computing

Our customer employed mobile x-ray units in rural areas that needed medical grade computers for control. Consumer-grade computers wouldn’t have fit the bill—carrying around a heavily-wired computer and monitor would have been insufficient and cumbersome for medical staff, so they used medical-grade PCs with hot swappable battery functionality.  With a full 16 hours of uptime running on batteries, the staff didn’t need to connect to AC power while using their mobile x-ray medical devices with the medical grade computers. Plus, there’s no downtime with computers featuring hot swappable battery technology ensuring constant healthcare. Internet connectivity is also a concern. In rural areas, internet accessibility isn’t the best which calls for a different type of wireless capability. Many mobile computers are equipped with 3 and 4G wireless technology, so even in the most distant of places medical staff can send patient data to the hospital for review if need be.

Using Surgical Grade Monitors to Enter the Digital Age

Our customer was able to connect the surgical grade monitors to the mobile x-ray devices and get an instant x-ray result on the medical computer’s touch screen. Older technologies required large film emulsion plates that took hours to process within a dark room—that obviously isn’t a mobile solution. With an instant x-ray, our customer was able to zoom in on the patient’s affected area in question and diagnose patients. Instead of having to travel several miles to a distant hospital, wait for an x-ray, process the film, and then have a doctor review the x-rays, it’s done instantly on site so the hospital doesn’t need to purchase expensive and bulky film slates for x-rays. When patient mobility is reduced, it’s up to the medical staff to transport what’s needed in the most crucial times of patient healthcare. Our provided solution fit the needs for our customer and their patients.

Medical Devices in Healthcare IT Aren’t Cheap

Our customer needed a medical grade computer that interfaced with the mobile x-ray machines without a significant price tag. Older medical devices use a serial RS-232 port, which is a legacy port not often found on consumer-grade computers. The option to upgrade to a newer set of x-ray machines wasn’t available with average prices for them ranging well over 100 thousand. In acquiring the medical grade computers, they saved crucial business funds to focus on traveling to patients with hampered mobility.

Medical Computers That Also Meet Certifications

The medical grade computers our customer used weren’t just capable of interfacing with x-ray machines for medical staff use. The computers they purchased had a full spectrum of patient safety in mind, starting with an antimicrobial plastic that inhibited the spread and growth of microorganisms. These mobile computers with the hot swappable battery function were fanless and used internal solid state drives to prevent spreading dust and germs. They also met FDA standards for patient safety with a 60601-1 certification to protect patients from electrical and radiation-related hazards.

Online sources report that 80 rural hospitals have seen closures since 2010 and approximately 600 are suffering financially, numbers likely because patients and hospitals lack mobility. These computers helped the lives of people and kept hospital doors open. There are reasons beyond mobility, however, that prompted our customer to purchase these computers—they’re medically certified for hospital and patient room use. Consumer-grade PCs don’t measure up to the standard that these computers meet! Our customer was satisfied with their purchase of these computers with the hot swappable battery function, the instant x-ray feedback, and the medical certifications to protect patients.

 

EHR Compatibility

A Few Problems Medical Professionals Face with EHR Compatibility

Per the Health IT Dashboard, 87 percent of hospitals in the United States started utilizing EHR software in 2015, a massive jump in a ten-year timespan from 25 percent in 2005. It’s clear use of EHR software has become the majority standard in a decade. Medical professionals stick by this method of health IT and information monitoring because it reduces error, streamlines processes, and ensures patient satisfaction. However, that doesn’t suggest the EHR software universe is snag-free. As with any software, problems can arise when a new EHR software product is released into a medical environment with a competing software product, and many sources note that a collective of medical professionals are raising concerns about one of the most pressing aspects of EHR software: interoperability. This aspect of EHR does not address the capability or functionality of the software itself, but rather data transfer between systems that run on medical monitors. It comes down to what’s called the CCD, or continuing care document.

In EHR Compatibility, the CCD is What Matters Most

The CCD, per Wikipedia, is an “XML-based markup standard intended to specify the encoding, structure, and semantics of a patient summary clinical document for exchange.” A compromised development by ASTM International and Health Level Seven International’s Clinical Document Architecure, it is encoded by EHR software as it contains a substantial amount of data including medications, allergies, problems, lab results, and patient chart data. This document is widely shared among medical computers and EHR devices. While not a complete medical record, the CCD includes just the most crucial information for effective medical care. It should be viewable via any standard web browser, but some voices lament that’s not always the case with a lot of EHR software, which leads to one of the most prevalent problems in healthcare IT…

EHR Compatibility Can be Terrible Because of Proprietary Formatting

Much like proprietary audio files or specific Apple chargers vs. Android phone chargers, not every EHR software product exports a CCD that will be read by another. At first glance, it may seem that transferring EHR between systems is just a file transfer, but how does that file transfer take place? If medical professionals bring their own devices, there are HIPAA security concerns—putting a patient’s data on a USB flash drive certainly isn’t secure. If one EHR system is web-based and another isn’t, how does an individual transfer the files? Does a physician-hosted EHR system function with a remotely hosted system or a cloud-based system? EHR compatibility problems can arise within hospitals—not just on a hospital to hospital transfer—if their IT departments decide on conflicting software environments, further causing connectivity problems. It’s a tough call between remaining secure, transferring the information from one medical monitor to another, and finding the quickest way to do so without compromising the data. Sometimes medical professionals have to print EHR documents and transcribe them to another platform, introducing human error and lengthening a typically automated process. EHR has been a wide success because of the Meaningful Use program and the HITECH Act, but medical staff still spend time bothering with menial tasks getting information from A to B. Health care companies are encouraging EHR software developers to start using open format file types instead of proprietary. There’s still a lot of room to improve, unfortunately.

EHR Compatibility Depends on the Medical Computer

Certain medical computers, while meeting FDA standards for near-patient use, aren’t compatible with all EHR systems—some medical monitors operate on a 4:3 aspect ratio, while EHR systems may utilize a 16:9 ratio to display a full gamut of patient information. A computer with an incompatible display may reject software installation or could limit the functionality of the software. Furthermore, highly advanced EHR systems require two-factor authentication, and if a system isn’t equipped with hardware to scan authentication methods, it may likely reject installation. Compatibility isn’t just a matter of speaking with other EHR software products—it’s a matter if the medical monitor in question can even support it.

A Way Out of EHR Compatibility Concern

Epic is one of the most prominent EHR systems used in the medical industry, and there’s a strong reason for it; interoperability is a key aspect of the Epic EHR system. There have been strides to see a universal healthcare data format for EHR systems, but it’s still a goal that not every company adheres to yet, even though Epic has been a key software product in that avenue. The Sequoia Project is an organization that advocates for nationwide health information exchange, and Carequality is a project within Sequoia designed to address interoperability between all parties in a healthcare IT network—addressing policy and technical agreements for the exchange of data. As for now, EHR compatibility can be addressed by ensuring all computers running a specific EHR—whichever it may be—remain in the same local “network.” Having a unified system with similar hardware cuts down on training time and bypasses any compatibility problems. Ensuring that the computers that run the EHR software are certified for that software is a must too—purchasing a computer deployment that ultimately doesn’t work with a given EHR system is wasted money. If your corporation goes with Epic for your EHR solution, keep in mind that many of our CyberMed computers are Epic and Cerner certified.

Hopefully in the near future we’ll see a unified, open format data file shareable among all EHR systems so we can focus on patient health instead of the technology supporting it. This unified system will take effort from several roles—the government, EHR providers, payers, and patients too. Some medical professionals argue that EHR developers must have proper incentives to cater to a unified system; it is a competitive market, after all.

 

How Aging Medical Technology Can Be Upgraded Or Integrated Into A New System

Value now plays a big role in health care more than ever and impacts the healthcare system, shifting payment models to value-based purchasing and pay per performance reimbursements. While budgets do not increase, regulatory pressure does alongside expenses and patient numbers. The urge to digitize pushes health care providers to seek affordable solutions that help them lower unit costs, operate more efficiently, and raise their quality levels along with increasing patient satisfaction. Providers are actively looking for ways to optimize the value of their limited resources.

Deploying cost-effective technology results in effective and efficient health care. Prolonging the life of the aging and legacy equipment plays an important role in this transition to a digitized health care. Nearly 5,000 types of medical devices are in use in health care facilities around the world. Reusable electronic medical devices last for 5-15 years, with 8-10 years being the most common lifecycle.

As new systems require wireless connectivity and system-wide interoperability, some legacy equipment that does not have these features may become obsolete before a provider is financially ready to replace it with a newer model. Some organizations are finding innovative solutions to upgrade an existing and aging piece of equipment or integrate it into the new, digital and connected hospital system.

Let’s look at how two organizations are tackling the challenge of upgrading or integrating aging medical equipment into a new system to help cut costs while still improving equipment and allowing them to offer top-of-the-line care at a fraction of the cost.

Peterson Regional Medical Center

Peterson Regional Medical Center (PRMC) needed to upgrade their medication dispensing system with a digital solution. Previously manual, their medication dispensing system was set for an upgrade to make it into a modern, automated system that is also easy to use for the nurses and affordable for the facility. PRMC had powered medical carts with PCs attached in their acute rehab department. However, those units did not perform well given the new medical dispensing software PRMC acquired and the overall scope of medical applications needed more resources than the old PCs could avail.

PRMC considered several options, including the laptops that were discarded due to the limited budget, issues with mounting, safety considerations, and ultimately, the lack of all the benefits of a powerful PC required by resource-hungry medical applications.

The hospital committee opted for an All-in-One PC instead, Cybernet’s iOne-GX31. 17” and 19” touchscreen, wireless, with modest power requirements, this ergonomic solution fit perfectly on the existing Humanscale medical carts. After a rigorous testing and positive feedback from nurses, PRMC ordered 35 units, complete with free disk imaging.

The carts were also supplied with wireless barcode scanners. The nurses found the new system easy to use and efficient. Dispensing medications now comes down to a simple automated process. The nurses now have computerized pharmacy authorizations available on the all-in-one PC on the cart that transports all the medications from room to room. The nurse scans a patient’s armband to view the authorized medications and dosages. Next, the nurse scans the medication to receive the dosage and medication authorization.

The nurses reported highly positive outcomes. They were able to complete extended medication rounds without recharging the carts because the iOne-GX31 is power-efficient and does not consume as much as the old PC they had previously mounted on Humanscale. The accuracy of medication dispense increased, and patients are receiving their medications on time, in the accurate dosage, at all times.

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center gave a second life to their 8-year old Dräger MDS III Anesthesia Workstations by replacing the obsolete and too expensive to maintain computers with CyberMed H22. The aging computers experienced glitches during procedures, which threatened patient safety and reduced accuracy in EMR documentation and billing. Since anesthesiologists rely on computers to monitor patient vitals and keep accurate documentation during procedures, an upgrade became unavoidable. The old computers were past their warranty term, so the maintenance and repairs became too expensive. Long downtime and slow workflow affected the entire system.

In the modular workstations, the anesthesia machines have longer life cycles than the PCs, so the IT department wanted to extend their use by replacing the PCs. They needed a high-quality, EN60601-1 certified medical PC that can be configured to work with the anesthesia unit and be safe and antimicrobial, perfect for near-patient use in operating rooms.

The CyberMed H22 models were configured with the existing Dräger anesthesia machines and deployed in operating rooms throughout VCUMC, saving them the cost of replacing the failing legacy computers. The affordable and robust medical computers restored the workflow and quality of care.

Also, an all-in-one workstation simplifies the configuration of the anesthesia cart because there are fewer pieces of equipment, and less wire clutter.

The Key To Integrating Aging Equipment Into A New System Successfully

A medical computer has to offer extensive compatibility, upgradability, and safety features to be apt for the task, though.

Compatibility. When integrating aging equipment into a new system, it is crucial for the new system to come with the legacy ports necessary to connect the older equipment and allow the machine-to-machine communication between the old and the new devices.

Upgradability. When cutting costs is a vital imperative, it is important to deploy technology with affordable upgrade options. For example, medical all-in-one computers often serve dual purposes when they come integrated with RFID reader, CAC or smart card reader, fingerprint ID reader or a barcode scanner.  This way, a medical grade computer becomes the connecting link between the aging legacy equipment and the new systems relying on RFID technology that is often part of the infotainment systems.

Safety. With nosocomial infections being a serious liability risk for hospitals, the media and increasingly aware patients scrutinize cases when medical equipment is the source of spread of pathogens. In ICUs, ORs, and other near-patient environments, medical technology must be safe. Therefore, it must be antimicrobial, i.e. coated with an antimicrobial agent that eliminates pathogens in between the disinfection rounds. The casing for such devices must also be sturdy and waterproof to withstand proper disinfection procedures.

Seamless integration. There are many cases when medical computers can help hospitals connect the large variety of disconnected systems that do not “speak the same language” and bring diverse readings from sensors, monitors, pumps, and newer IoT devices. Whether it be physical devices measuring patient readings, or software that transmits that data to a patient record, an integrated medical computer helps medical professionals bring the readings, analysis and recommendations in one place, refining the care they provide.

As providers integrate new technology, one of the biggest problems is how to stay within the budget and offer top-of-the-line care at the same time. Giving a second life to aging equipment with the help of the new technology helps hospitals postpone the acquisition of new equipment for several years. That way, healthcare facilities can maintain aging equipment functional, and replace it only when it is feasible.

Patient Infotainment – The Benefits of Utilizing Bedside Computers

We as a thinking species have evolved in more complex ways than one. In terms of our understanding and accepted definitions of technology, for instance. In the new globalized lives we lead today, ‘medicine’ has evolved into ‘healthcare’ and the ‘doctors’, ‘nurses’ and ‘technicians’ are now recognized as ‘healthcare providers.’ With each successive decade, we have developed more conceptual ways of looking at products and services.

Continuing the illustrations from the healthcare industry, we now evaluate the capabilities of a hospital not just by the strength of its staff and the complex procedures that can be performed there, but also by the overall ‘environment’ that it creates around a recuperating patient. In recent years, patient infotainment has crystallized into a focused area of study, with researches and experiments examining various healthcare setups for the degree of engagement and positivity they can invoke from a patient.

The new model of patient care accords much more importance to overall patient satisfaction than hospitals could manage a decade ago. The typical recovery room, with its beeping monitors and its wall-hung cable TV, has evolved into a more sophisticated environment wherein a single bedside computer can cater to the patient’s entertainment and communication needs, while also monitoring treatment. These bedside computers are rightfully known as ‘infotainment’ terminals, because of their ability to raise the level of patient satisfaction and encourage them to engage with their surroundings.

The typical bedside infotainment terminal today can allow a patient to watch TV, listen to music, browse social networks, communicate with loved ones on Skype, order food from the hospital cafeteria, or choose to read up on the specifics of the treatment or medication he is receiving. The device is essentially a medical grade computer with rugged features tailored for long term use. Its capabilities are software based, using programs such as OneView’s suite to offer patients an intuitive, user-friendly interface.

Bedside computers can be customized for use as infotainment terminals via installation in patient wards and long term care facilities where patients spend lengthy periods of time within a single location. They are minimal, integrating the functions of a bedside monitor, television, and even regular visits by care providers.

The psychological aspect of recovery of the patient, the kind that relies on encouragement from his surroundings, is completely taken care of by a good infotainment terminal. Rather than feeling victimized by a sterilized and intimidating hospital environment, patients can actually feel like they are in charge of their recovery. This fact is reiterated by multiple studies that have indicated that higher levels of patient satisfaction reduce readmission rates.

The benefits of infotainment terminals might seem intangible, but they can lead to significant savings for the healthcare industry. They ensure speedier recoveries and a more efficient care system through three layers of control – patient comfort (through internet, TV, games, social media, calling facilities etc.), engagement (through treatment information, nurse calling and meal ordering capabilities), and professional staff features (through secure access to patient data, syncing of treatment records and care provider visits, as well as remote supervision).

In a world where hospital visits are rapidly becoming unavoidable, the role of bedside computers as infotainment terminals promises to be indispensable.

How Returning a Rental Car Inspired the Use of Barcode Scanners at a VA Facility

Chris Tucker, RPh, Director of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), recently explained that the facility received its inspiration for developing a bar-coding system of its own after one of the nurses returned a rental car. The nurse observed one of the employees of the rental car company using a handheld electronic device to scan a barcode that was located in the rental car’s trunk. This observation gave the nurse the idea to use the same type of application to identify patients and medications.

The Department of Veterans Affairs afforded a start-up fee of $50,000 for the development of a barcode system to help the facility administer medications more efficiently and improve the overall safety of the facility’s patients. The prototype that resulted from these efforts was wireless, real-time, POC technology designed with an integrated barcode scanner to be utilized at twenty-two nursing units inside the VA’s Eastern Kansas Health Care System.

This prototype became the VHA’s catalyst for the creation of a system that could be utilized at every VHA medical center throughout the nation. Its resulting Bar Code Medication Administration (BCMA) system was created for validating medications, as well as electronically documenting the administration of the medications. The BCMA was specifically designed so that nurses could scan the barcode of any ordered medication and tell:

  • Whether a particular patient received the right medications
  • Whether or not the dosage was correct
  • The scheduled time of the medication’s administration
  • The actual time each patient is given the medications

The BCMA system was integrated into the pre-existing nursing and pharmacy software programs that were currently in use by the facility staff. Historically, these two separate facility departments had not worked together cohesively in addressing patient drug administration and/or delivery problems. Being able to standardize drug order guidelines effectively facilitated a more efficiently coordinated process for ordering and delivering medications.

A pharmacist consultant for the VHA, Ron Schneider, said that a multidisciplinary team made up of pharmacy, nursing and information management specialists was a critical factor in the installation of the BCMA system. He noted that fully understanding everyone’s working conditions, coupled with collaborative efforts, is what improved the implementation process of the BCMA system.

Presently, all VA medical centers are now reaping the benefits of using BCMA. Between 1993 and 2001, there has been a considerable reduction in dosing, patient, timing and medication errors. In 2002, BCMA Version 2.0 was released, which featured a series of checks and balances for IV therapy.

The BCMA project has future goals of interaction with other clinical software systems that contain information on nutrition, vital signs, and lab results.

And to think, it all started with a nurse returning a rental car.

Why Medical Grade Computers Are Used by Vet Clinics

Just like any other medical provider, veterinarians are dependent upon high quality diagnostic equipment and tools to help them make an accurate diagnosis and maintain detailed information for every patient they treat.  In recent years, many veterinarians have come to be dependent on the same computers as medical doctors because they are more reliable and secure.

Here are a few benefits of using medical grade computers in veterinary clinics…

BENEFIT 1: Better Clinic Management

One advantage of using medical grade computers in veterinary practices is the complex design that enables use of complex and advanced software solutions, which makes scheduling appointments and invoicing easier and more accurate. These computers make office management more streamlined and organized and streamlined, so that bills are sent out on time – and paid on time.

BENEFIT 2: Better Recordkeeping

Medical grade computers make recordkeeping easier and reduce the risks of errors, so you will maintain more precise patient records. Errors in handwritten notes on medical records can have a major negative impact on medical care.  Medical grade computers eliminate this risk.  And with barcode scanners available on many units, recordkeeping is easier than ever. Medical grade computers also decrease the risk of data loss since digital files are more secure and credible than hardcopy filing folders.

BENEFIT 3: Better Care

Using a medical grade computer in conjunction with veterinary apps, you can make a more accurate diagnosis much more quickly. Medical grade computers enable the attachment of electronic imagery to files, such as X-rays and MRIs. This alone improves efficiency and thus, helps you improve patient care.  What’s more, using digital files, you can keep a pet’s entire medical history in a single file. You can easily see medical history, past procedures and past prescriptions. With this access, you know what does and does not work for the pet patient and can handle treatment much more accurately and efficiently.

BENEFIT 4: Better Safety

Medical grade computers are also fanless, which prevents the accumulation of dirt and debris from gathering inside the unit. These computers are heavy duty, so they are sealed and waterproof, plus they are feature an antimicrobial coating for infection and disease control.  Many common illnesses in cats and dogs – including kennel cough, canine influenza and feline viral rhinotracheitis – are all airborne diseases. The design of medical grade computers helps to prevent germs from spreading from patient to patient, making the clinic a safer environment for both pets and their owners.

It’s obvious that medical grade computers save veterinarians time and money, which is why the additional up-front expense associated with purchasing a medical grade computer over a standard PC makes sense in the long run. You’ll be able to better manage your clinic, maintain more accurate records and provide a better standard of care to your patients.

 

 

How to Develop a Workflow for New Medical Technology

When your healthcare setting is used to working in its old ways, it can be a daunting experience trying to plan out a new addition to the workflow. New technological advances and improvements have brought out new medical equipment that can help save you space, time and money; and, most importantly, improve care practices.

Adding a new medical computer or tablet to your system doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re considering implementing a piece of medical technology, there are ways you can put together a workflow to accommodate it.

The key to whether it is successful, or not, is pre-planning and mapping out the specific role the new device will have in terms of day to day activities. Since the device will be attached to a cart, the flexibility it offers is vast, providing more opportunities to ensure accurate and efficient patient care.

Learn How to Use It

The most important step is to learn how to use the new tablet or computer on the medical cart. You should plan a staff meeting or workshop prior to implementing it. Have all personnel that will be using it attend this meeting. Discuss the way the equipment will impact the day-to-day activities and provide educational instructions on proper usage.

Windows Tablet – These are small and portable. They may have additional functions like scanning barcodes on wristbands or prescriptions. It may come with a stylus pen that could take getting used to. You may even want to use a front or rear-facing camera. Tablets are used on the go and may require practice for those that have never used them before. When mounted to a cart they offer ultimate flexibility and versatility for a medical practice.

All-in-One PC + Medical Cart – These are used as medication carts, part of a nurse’s station or for administration to get information, like health insurance, from the patient. These carts allow the computer and keyboard to attach and move around with ease. If your healthcare setting has never used a medical cart before, this would be one to bring up and introduce as a new addition.

Once staff members are comfortable with the new addition, it is crucial to explain the role it will play in day-to-day activities.

The Role of the Device

The most important question to ask is how the new computer will be used. Implement a strategy of how the new device will impact each activity by each staff member. For example:

  • Check-in: Use device for registering patient, verifying information, alerting nurse/doctor of arrival.
  • Triage: Update specific issue or reason for the visit. Alert doctor to the patient’s presence.
  • Consultation: Doctor can use device for ordering tests or labs, prescribing medication, taking notes of the evaluation of the patient.
  • Follow-Up: Select options for front desk staff to know if new appointment is needed, what patient needs to pay and any other pertinent information.

The modern devices provide the custom setup necessary for all types of medical devices. This allows medical practices to have the devices pre-loaded and ready to go for their specific practice.

Ease It into the Workflow

After educating staff on the new piece of medical equipment it is essential to introduce its purpose and benefit to every department or staffer. It is crucial to make sure each person knows the role of the tablet or computer in their specific position. This will make the transition of not using the machine, to using it, worry and trouble free.

Administration – A medical computer in administrative and financial settings provides accounting systems like patient billing, payroll and materials management. These are typically located on desks in the office. Administration will need to back up data and ensure that no important information is lost during the transition.

Healthcare Professionals – A medical computer, cart or tablet may be introduced to a healthcare professional. Nurses who have never used a tablet before may need to learn how to use one for the first time. Nurses are very busy and you will want to make sure there’s a good plan set up before tweaking their routines. Same goes with physicians. If they are used to writing with pen on paper, a tablet with a stylus pen could be quite a change. They may be older and uneducated in computer technology. Even those who grew up when computers were coming out may have trouble learning how these new systems work.

Summary

Learning how to implement the new computer or tablet for a medical practice can take time, but when a plan is in place, it will minimize the confusion or issues that result. There are far too many medical practices attempting to introduce new technology, such as the tablet or computer cart without letting staffers know its purpose and how it will impact efficiency, patient care and productivity. Making a specific plan for workflow integration will make the entire process seamless and provide a significant ROI for the new technology.

 

How Medical Grade Computers Improve the Standard of Care in the Medical Profession

The face of the healthcare industry has changed drastically in the past decade. Now, the use of devices like medical grade computers in patient rooms, emergency rooms, and operating rooms have allowed healthcare service providers and administrators to respond to each patient’s case in a more immediate and efficient manner. Over time, hospital IT administrators have adopted the use of medical grade computers as the standard of care for medical facilities. While the choice to adopt these devices as the standard in the healthcare industry has increased, not everyone has made the decision to switch to the use of medical grade computers. There are a number of reasons why medical grade computers should be the standard within the clinical setting. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Medical Certification

An important reason why medical grade computers need to be adopted for widespread use in the clinical setting is to meet the exacting demands of medical certification standards. Before a device can be used within the healthcare environment, they need to be able to meet if not exceed the standards that have been established to protect patients and healthcare professionals who interact with electrical systems. Depending on the needs of your working environment, the medical computer that your administrators purchase should be able to adapt to the varying requirements. Before a purchase can be made, it is necessary for everyone involved to ensure that the device meets the medical certification standards of IEC 60601.

IEC 60601 sets standards that addresses the risks involved in using electrical medical devices to the patient and the healthcare professional. Medical devices should meet the 60601 standards so hospital administrators can properly address patient and healthcare worker safety when electronic medical equipment is being used.

In the industry, the term “Medical Grade Computer” is not defined and is often used loosely. It does not always mean 60601 certified so it is important to be sure that the medical device has been 60601 certified.

Touch Screen Interface

The touch screen interface provides medical professionals with a tactile mechanism to find and review important files and patient health records in a rapid manner. Medical grade computers possess an ease of use due to the responsive nature of its touch screen interface. Hospital administrators need to look for devices that allow the healthcare professional to interact with the touch screen while their hands are gloved. Look for devices that allow for multi-touch software applications as well. Medical grade computers come in a variety of screen sizes so depending on your preferences, you’re sure to find a device that responds to your specific set of requirements.

The Demands of a Sterile Environment

The demands of a sterile environment require the use of devices that can keep up with frequent washes and disinfection procedures. Medical grade computers come with an antimicrobial coating that prevent the spread of diseases from occurring and their ergonomic design ensures that there aren’t any spaces where germs could be left to grow and proliferate. Medical computers with waterproof features can easily withstand periodic exposure to moisture in environments like operating rooms.

Industrial Grade Components

The demanding nature of the healthcare environment means that the healthcare industry cannot afford the use of devices that could break down at any given moment. Some manufacturers now use industrial strength internal computer components. This ensures that the device operates with increased reliability over the course of a lengthy work period. Fanless devices are also a consideration when evaluating medical computers as they are more durable because of the lack of moving parts. Moving parts need to be replaced more often than static parts.

Ergonomic Design

The ergonomic design of medical grade computers makes them highly adaptable as far as installation is concerned. Depending on your needs, you can easily mount the medical computer on wall or arm mounts for easy accessibility. To address mobility needs, installing medical grade computers on medical carts is easier than ever. This quality of adaptability ensures that your installation needs are met when installing a medical grade computer.

The Cybernet Advantage

Cybernet manufactures medical grade computers that are found in a variety of working environments such as operating rooms, nursing stations, pharmaceutical laboratories, and patient facilities. Cybernet’s medical grade computers meet the stringent safety guidelines imposed by IEC 60601-1 for healthcare devices. This ensures that healthcare professional’s time and resources can be focused on elevating the quality of patient healthcare practices throughout the organization.