Tag Archives: medical grade computer

surgical monitors and medical computer system

Understanding How Medical Computers Enhance EMR Capability

Technology in hospitals has advanced greatly towards automation and electronic document storage to improve the lives of patients and facilitate the jobs of medical professionals. As of 2015 96% of all non-federal acute care hospitals had adopted basic EMR software. Even in rural areas adoption was at 80% – up from just 53% as recently as 2013. As with all tools, however, adoption isn’t enough. How you use a tool determines if you are maximizing its effectiveness and your ROI. Since the introduction of EMR systems, medical computers have presented new methods of accessing healthcare information and services. Here’s a brief look at how these systems are changing healthcare information roles.

Making Charting Less of a Time Drain

Probably the most dramatic shift since the widespread adoption of EMR software has been in how patient charting is done. In the past, charting was a paper process that took up hours of a nurse’s time each shift, taking away from actual time spent on patient care. Even today however, some hospitals and facilities still require nurses to do their charting at the nurses station, which means that time is still wasted transcribing data into the EMR software. Time that could be spend tending to patients.

Medical cart computers that are certified to run EMR software can help alleviate tedious processes like this. Instead of charting at a central location, nurses can go room to room, administering to their patient’s needs, and chart in “real-time”. What sets these computers apart from regular commercial grade computers is two-fold. First and foremost, they are medically certified devices that have been cleared for near patient use. Second, they use integrated RFID, fingerprint and smart card readers to ensure secure log-in, keeping patient data safe and secure as mandated by HIPAA.

Making Anesthesiology Safer

There is no time when a patient is more vulnerable or when a hospital’s risk and liability are greater than when surgery is being performed. The role that anesthesiologists play in mitigating both risks can’t be understated. Unfortunately, a lot of facilities still use antiquated processes when it comes to anesthesiology. There are certain realities that must be adhered to in an operating room. The sterile nature of the rooms and regulations regarding electrical medical equipment often times leads to anesthesiologists being forced to monitor patients and record vital information on paper. We’ve even heard of one example where the anesthesiologists were monitoring the patient from outside of the operating room because their equipment was deemed safe for near patient use. This is a massive liability that is easy to fix.

Medical computers are built and designed for these applications. Fanless medical computers are safe for sterile environments. A true medical computer will also be UL60601-1 certified for near patient use and IP65 rated for cleaning and disinfection. Large displays with touchscreens also make it easier for the anesthesiologist to enter patient vitals, meaning there is less time doing data entry and more time administering to the patient. Here’s one example of one of the advanced surgical centers in the country made the switch to fanless medical computers in their operating rooms to enhance their patient care.

 

 

Remote Patient Care

It’s not always the case that patients are able enough to travel to a doctor’s office. Disabled individuals and shut-ins will need in-home care. Mobile health clinics might be necessary in rural areas. Mobile clinics are also an important pieces of the healthcare puzzle in underserved areas. There are several reasons why an individual might not be able to gain reliable access to healthcare on their own. But mobile technology now allows healthcare to come to them, if not in their homes, at least in a more convenient location to them.

Medical grade tablets have completely changed healthcare. In-home nurses can bring these devices with them and record patient information directly into an EHR system. The same can be said of mobile health clinics. Patients can use a table to enter medical histories or sign up for patient portals so they can access their records from home. Practitioners can even engage in telehealth consultations to share test results or help diagnose ailments. And all data is immediately recorded in an EMR solution every step of the way.

Preventative Medical Care – The Future of EMR

As before, healthcare has “developed legs” and evolved to become so comprehensive that healthcare tracking is something that can remain with patients. Since the rise of the Internet of Things and wearable devices that track our health, patients are taking better preventative steps for healthcare. Instead of periodical healthcare snapshots, physicians can look at a profile of patients with ongoing health metrics and identify conditions that can lead to more serious health complications years down the road. This allows for a further understanding of illness which can push the boundary of medical education and progress. Many experts believe that blockchain technology will allow healthcare networks to aggregate hundreds of thousands of anonymous data points to identify risk factors and health trends, ultimately leading to early diagnosis and preventative health plans. And of course, medical computers will be at the forefront of connecting the dots.

These are just a handful of the ways that medical computers are maximizing the way hospitals and other facilities are using their EMR software. EMR software, like all technology, will continue to evolve and grow and the way that it is used on a day to day basis will improve the outcome of patients everywhere. For more information on how to improve your EMR investment you can contact us here.

 

medical computers and computers on wheels

3 Ways Medical Grade Computers Make Surgery Safer

It’s clear that surgical mistakes—however minor they may be—are still prevalent on surgical tables and still cause significant health problems. You can easily get plenty of statistics online to verify some frequencies of surgical accidents. From problems of communication and preparation, to complete blunders like operating on the wrong limb or side of a patient, surgical mistakes are costly for everyone and can cause a medical practitioner to lose their license. That’s why it’s important to operate alongside a medical computer so that mistakes are reduced, whatever the cause. Here are three common mistakes that can happen in surgery that can be reduced with the use of a medical computer.

Use a Medical Computer to Track Items

Nearly 6 thousand patients per year leave the operating room table with leftover surgical equipment still inside them; a majority of these foreign objects are sponges that can cause painful medical symptoms and result in patient death if not handled properly. Some patients leave the table with surgical instruments still inside them. For standard surgical procedures, these kinds of mistakes shouldn’t happen, but to err is human and these mistakes are still a costly problem in operating rooms.

For the betterment of surgical procedures, it’s best if surgeons use medical computers to track RFID-enabled instruments being used in patients. As an instrument, sponge, or other supply is removed and used in operation, the computer can track its use. A surgeon can then refer to it after a long procedure and ensure all equipment is accounted for appropriately before wrapping up their procedure. The medical computer is there to catch what exhausted surgeons may miss when wrapping up a procedure.

Anesthesia Errors Happen All Too Often

Anesthesiologists are heavily responsible for ensuring a patient is unconscious before surgical procedures begin and remain safe throughout an operation. It’s one of the first steps in surgery that is incredibly important for the well-being of the patient during an operation. However, mistakes can easily happen even at this early stage of the operation. Anesthesia awareness is a very real result of not administering enough anesthesia, and it can cause long-term psychological damage to patients. Approximately 40 thousand Americans experience anesthesia awareness every year. Other common errors are just as scary—too much anesthesia can lead to a coma or brain injury. Unsatisfactory patient monitoring can lead to unsafe oxygen levels. Whatever the cause of the mistakes of the anesthesia, a small mishap can lead to profound negative results.

Anesthesiologists benefit from using a medical cart computer that is certified for near patient use to monitor vital signs and administer the proper dosages of anesthesia. This allows the anesthesiologist to be in the room during surgery, in what is often referred to as Computer Assisted Sedation (CAS). There is an entire field dedicated to controlling the state of the brain with anesthesia, and MRI studies have shown distinct differences in the conscious and unconscious mind and their relationship to specific parts of the brain. As practitioners use this and unravel more secrets of neurology, they can understand more about how the brain works and the proper dosages and practices of administering anesthesia. Not only would we see a proper reduction in accidents circling around administering too much or too little medicine, but using a medical computer to record patient vitals in real time would provide informatics for further research and understanding, as well as more automated processes for sedation.

Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, Wrong Patient

It’s true that impossible-sounding mistakes have occurred beyond operating room doors. Sometimes a surgical team proceeds with the wrong procedure on the wrong patient—often referred to as WSPEs (wrong site, procedure, and patient errors) or “never events”—and any number of poor workplace practices can point to reasons why these exist. Stories of some cases are available for research online, such as when a patient with a head injury had his leg operated on in error. The doctor mistook the patient for another. It’s mistakes like these that lead to malpractice and legal matters in the future.

Surgeons and medical staff are encouraged to use guides and checklists installed onto medical grade computers in the operating room that guide surgeons with every step of a procedure—even on agreeing which patient is being operated on. Plus, surgical procedures are typically arduous processes that can take from several hours to beyond an entire day to complete. The use of computers in surgery can assist a surgeon at any moment in time and guide them through a surgical procedure, however complex it may be. New technological advancements are pushing robots into surgery now, so after operating for 20 hours the surgeon may not need to use their hand to make incisions. Efforts to reduce human involvement in surgery are growing with this new technology. Hopefully as adoption of these sophisticated technologies increases, we will see a reduction in surgical mistakes.

It’s important to understand that surgical mistakes can’t be reduced to zero; they will still happen regardless of using a medical PC or not. Reduction is our goal when it comes to any problem in the medical realm that detracts from the well-being of people, but it starts with being prepared with the right technology. Contact us to learn more.

medical cart computers and medical computers

The Differences Between Antimicrobial Housings and Coatings

Per the CDC, Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) infect one in 20 patients daily. This costs healthcare several billion dollars a year—no trifling matter. Some sources cite that UTIs and pneumonia are the top two most common HAIs, with pneumonia being the top infection that claims lives. It’s a scary thought to have one of the most infectious diseases on a surface nearby a patient going through surgery, and so every precaution must be taken to avoid patients getting infected via the unseen enemy. With such a bombardment of invisible microbes and pathogens capable of infection, it’s not possible to reduce all infections at all times. However, using what’s called an antimicrobial surface on all medical surfaces is a step in the right direction.

If you work in healthcare, you’ve likely seen some label or notifying mark on a medical cart saying the cart in use has an antimicrobial surface. It’s a no-brainer that the antimicrobial surface is a necessary feature with a medical cart computer in a hospital to reduce the spread of disease and infection. What you’re probably not aware of is that there isn’t just one method of making the plastics so they’re worthy of the antimicrobial label. There are several different materials considered antimicrobial. Silver, for example, is capable of reducing microbial activity, but we doubt that anyone would want to buy a medical computer housed in silver—that’s probably best reserved for surgical instruments. Constructing an antimicrobial surface takes a proper balance of finding the right materials for the work, the best method of creating the housing, and an option that doesn’t break the bank.

Plus, “antimicrobial” means something that discourages microbe growth in one way or another. A microbe is a general definition that fits plenty of microorganisms, but for the purposes of this blog, the definitions should be handled in a general fashion. Here are some methods of producing an antimicrobial surface for medical computers and why one should be considered over the other when in the market for new technology.

A Coating that Cleans Itself

A lot of medical grade computer manufacturers will label their hardware as antimicrobial or “self-cleaning,” but in the details of the product documentation, you’ll likely find it features an antimicrobial coating. This method to keep the computer surface clean has a huge disadvantage: it degrades over the span of several months. The coating flakes off when interacting with light, shedding off microbes as well. The constant disinfection that is required in a hospital setting will also degrade an antimicrobial coating. It’s true the product is self-cleaning, but only for the suggested timespan (likely offered in the documentation too). Plus, that doesn’t speak about the capability of inactivating microbes or discouraging growth. Another kind of coating is an application of silver nanoparticles or biocides, but much like the former, the coating wears off over time. This brings into question how effective a medical computer with a coating might be over the course of its lifespan—it could likely render the computer’s antimicrobial feature obsolete quickly.

The Antimicrobial Everlasting Housing

Medical computers with antimicrobial housings—not coatings—degrade less over time since there’s no “shedding.” There’s a superior method of producing an antimicrobial plastic for a computer: instead of using the short-term technology found with coatings that degrade over time, the best companies add an antimicrobial agent into the manufacturing process of the resin that lasts longer than a coating. The agent used not only discourages growth, it actually is highly toxic to microbes and bacteria. Instead of shedding off infections, they’re reduced on the surface of the plastic housing. It’s a more effective method of reducing microbe activity.

Beyond Coatings and Housings

For starters, the medical computers used nearby patients should be disinfected frequently. Plus, it helps to have a high ingress protection for frequent disinfections—over time, liquids can seep into the innards of equipment and shorten the expected lifetime of the computer. An IP65 rating means the front bezel is sealed against direct sprays, so the computer can be continuously cleaned without fear of shorting the internal components or wearing away anything protective. Beyond that, using hygiene toolkits and practicing constant hand hygiene are additional safety methods to ensure a reduction in HAIs. It is also important to note that a computer is rarely a stand alone device in a hospital setting. They are often mounted on medical carts or other equipment. It is important that the medical cart is antimicrobial as well, otherwise you aren’t really preventing the spread of anything.

Using the best technology with the most robust features in a hospital setting is the best way to guard your hospital or clinic against HAIs. An antimicrobial coating on a medical computer doesn’t last as long as the computer itself—it’s best to find more sophisticated technology with stronger features, particularly a computer with antimicrobial housing with agents mixed into the resin of its plastic. Contact us to learn more.

medical grade computers and medical grade all in one

4 Questions to Ask When Searching for a New Medical Grade Computer

What is the difference between “healthcare grade” and “medical grade,” and what problems might arise if one is chosen over another? It seems like such a small thing. What’s in a word? A lot, when you break it down. The distinction between healthcare grade and medical grade computers is important, and here’s why: medical grade suggests a higher standard for a healthcare setting.

Computer systems that are marketed as medical grade are less problematic because they’re more feature-rich than healthcare grade. For instance, is a healthcare grade computer housed in an antimicrobial casing? Does this healthcare grade computer protect against infection, ingress, and the spread of disease? Has it been tested for radiation and electric emissions for near patient use? By the end of this blog, you will be equipped with the knowledge to know what questions you need to ask, and how to verify the validity of a vendor’s response.

The IEC60601-1 Certification – Get Tested

To be truly medical grade, a computer must meet IEC 60601-1 certification. More than just an alphanumerical string, IEC60601-1 is a necessary standard that protects the lives of patients. It details a number of separate sub-standards to protect patients from electric shock, radiation, machine interference (pinching), and other hazards. Some manufacturers may tout the expansive standard, but what they don’t reveal is their product meets only one sub-standard instead of the entire spectrum of standards within IEC60601-1. So if a corporation touts its new computer as IEC60601-1 compliant, be sure to investigate what that means.

True medical grade computers have certifications for the entire spectrum of standards for IEC60601-1 and you can easily verify the testing by asking a manufacturer for their certification. This isn’t a short document either. True 60601-1 certification documents are extensive. It’s also important to check the year of the standard—if a computer is certified for the IEC60601-1 standard that was defined several years ago, it may be best to find a product with a more recent certification.

Don’t be fooled by the term compliant vs. certified either. The most accepted definitions of these terms: compliance means the specifications of a product simply meet a standard. Certification means the product passed a set of rigorous, difficult tests and is a step above compliance, earning the tested product a certificate or label. The problem with compliance is that any corporation can self-claim their product is compliant with almost anything. Unless an independent 3rd party testing facility has verified that a computer meets all specifications it isn’t 60601-1 certified.

Fanless Designs, IP65, & Antimicrobial Technology

True medical grade computers not only meet rigorous standards but are feature-rich and better equipped to solve a wider range of problems that can arise in a hospital. Healthcare-Acquired Infections (HAIs) are still prevalent pests within hospital doors, and computers with more robust features perform better in terms of safety for everyone. Were you aware that HAIs can spread through a computer’s fan? Dust is more hazardous than we realize in hospitals and one lone dust fragment can turn infectious to any patient. Fanless medical computers are built to protect the patient (and staff!) by reducing airborne particle spread—something required for clean room operation.

Given the need for constant disinfection, IP65 ratings are also extremely important. Would you rather settle for a computer that protects from limited dust ingress and liquid sprays (IP54) or a computer that is protected against total dust ingress and more powerful liquid sprays (IP65)? Exposed bezels aren’t just breeding grounds for bacteria, but they can be ingress points for chemical disinfectants, which can lead to damage of internal components. Its important for a computer to have an IP65 rating, especially in a hospital setting, so units can be properly cleaned and disinfected.

Which brings us to antimicrobial technology. Some “healthcare edition” computers don’t even offer antimicrobial properties. The models that do aren’t all created equally. Because hospital disinfectants are so powerful, it isn’t uncommon for computers treated with an antimicrobial coating to degrade over time. In addition to cleaning a unit, these disinfectants can strip away the antimicrobial coating as well. You should look for a computer that has antimicrobial properties injected directly into the plastic molding and has been independently tested to maintain those properties over several thousand cleanings.

How Long of a Product Life Cycle?

What’s the life cycle of the computer in question? The best medical grade all in one systems on the market have a product cycle of 3 to 5 years—significantly longer than commercial-grade brand computers which average about 1.5 years. Project deployment for these systems can sometimes take years as hospital departments shed older computers and implement new ones over time. What if the purchased product isn’t available in that timespan? Will you be ready to face the potential pitfalls of mixing hardware within a computer project deployment?

We’ve heard of problems arising from mixing hardware in a deployment in the past. Even small configurations—changing a video card, altering the aspect ratio of a monitor, or even reducing the number of ports on a computer—can drastically change how mobile EMR software operates for the end-user. Differences in support, operating systems, and driver conflicts can sometimes be nasty roadblocks for interoperability if your hospital has a mixed project deployment. The best practices for a hospital are to purchase an identical set of computers for their entire project timeline, and that means ensuring the product life cycle is more extensive than the competition.

 

We hope these questions serve as a basis for understanding what’s on the market and how important it is to be armed with the knowledge necessary to ask the right questions. The best computers in a hospital setting are true medical grade all in one systems because of their superior features that safeguard the lives of a hospital’s entire population, whether patient or practitioner. Contact us to learn more.

surgical monitor and medical computer system

3 Screen Technologies in Hospitals that Can Alleviate Problems

Not all screens are created equal, and that can be easily said for technology in a hospital. Screen tech should vary depending on the purpose the screen in question serves. Some monitors are used in surgical procedures, others are used heavily with EMR software, and some are even used by patients. If you don’t have the proper screen for your work in the hospital, it can affect staff workplace effectiveness and even patient satisfaction. If insufficient screen technology is a pain point for your medical facility, we’ve got the lowdown on what kind of hardware is best for what hospital positions.

Surgeons Need a Surgical Monitor

Medical error is found to be the third leading cause of death in the US; that statistic translates to about 250 thousand deaths annually according to Johns Hopkins. This statistic doesn’t delve into the specific reasons why an error occurs outside of human nature, but the best approach we can have is assuming this prevalent problem can be mitigated from all angles. One of the methods we can employ to safeguard against medical error is ensuring the proper technology is applied to the right medical procedure. Surgery, for example. Surgeons need excellent vision. If a surgeon begins an invasive procedure like an endoscopy, it’s important they’re able to see the imagery they’re receiving from the surgical camera clearly. Surgeons require technology beyond what’s available in stores that gives them instant feedback from their surgical cameras with high-quality imagery.

An all-in-one computer with a surgical monitor can reveal minute details of a patient’s condition for the most accurate diagnoses. The combined higher resolution, stronger brightness measurements, and unmatched clarity give medical practitioners the edge in identifying illnesses and hard-to-see symptoms so signs of a disease are clearer to see. Surgical monitors on all-in-one computers are key to proper diagnoses and effective operations. What you might find in a store doesn’t compare to the technical advantage you’ll find with a surgical monitor. With this technology, we can reduce medical error and misdiagnosis.

PCAP Technology on an All-in-One Computer

EMR software has grown in complexity since its inception. It’s also become more user-friendly by incorporating touch-screens and large interfaces to navigate the functions embedded within the software. However, the wrong touch screen technology can be a little for end users. Some touch screens lack clarity and features for medical professionals to use, so it’s best to employ what’s called projected capacitive technology.

A medical computer system using a projected capacitive (PCAP) touch screen is ideal for common use in a hospital because of the clearer display. It’s easier on the eyes because of the built-in technology and is more responsive than older touch screen tech. It allows for multiple-touch input so medical staff can fully manipulate imagery by zooming and rotating. This kind of technology is also more durable so it lasts longer than other touch screens.

Making Patient Engagement Computers More User Friendly

Sometimes using a mouse and keyboard isn’t feasible in specific computer stations behind hospital doors. A regular computer isn’t user-friendly with a keyboard and mouse since they’re cumbersome to control in patient rooms. Ever tried using a mouse and keyboard while laying down? It’s awkward. Patients don’t always have the strength or ability to sit up and use a computer, nor is there always a place to store a keyboard and mouse.

That’s why it’s ideal for any patient engagement computer to have a touchscreen. It’s a cost-effective solution for the patient bedside, and it’s easy for both medical practitioners and patients to control the computer. Medical practitioners can still use medical gloves for input, allowing them to use the computer to do charting or check patient test results. They can even share images like x-ray results with patients bedside. For the patient, a touchscreen allows them the freedom to navigate the internet, make video calls to family or turn on a movie.

 

By using the proper screen technology—whether it’s on a medical computer system with a surgical monitor or a patient engagement computer—we can reduce the frequency of medical error, misdiagnosis, and discomfort for all parties in the hospital. We still have a long journey ahead of us to see these problems reduced to almost zero frequency, but by understanding the primary ways to address these problems through better technology, we’ve got a promising start. Contact us today to see how you can start reducing medical errors so your hospital or clinic improves.

 

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.