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Integrating Computers That Serve Dual Purposes Into The Medical Space

Health IT is improving patient health, data collection and safety, care quality and efficiency, but most importantly it is helping providers restrain rising costs. Through the implementation of technology that serves dual, or often times multiple, purposes, healthcare providers are introducing new IT solutions and cutting unnecessary spending. With the advent of specialized, medical grade computers, hospitals are finding ways to address both the doctors and nurses’ efficiency and productivity issues and patient satisfaction, which is directly tied into the provider’s rewards under the Affordable Care Act.

Hospitals recognize the value of a dual purpose computer integrated into the hospital rooms. Health IT, according to a RAND research, could account for $77 billion efficiency savings per year, when implemented fully.

Doctors and Nurses

Medical computers at the patient bedside are used by doctors, nurses and patients alike, and provide an unprecedented level of connectivity and efficiency to all.

EHR implementation is urged by the government, and providers adopting it seek ways to make their EHR systems mobile and accessible in real time. When doctors are able to submit the details of admission and all episodes of care at the patient bedside, no details are left behind or forgotten.

Fully-functional EHRs supply care providers with patient data, enable physicians to enter patient care orders and help make evidence-based clinical decisions. With a medical computer running an EHR system installed in near-patient environments, doctors and nurses no longer have to rush back to the office to enter the details of care, or seek a shared computer in the hallway. The immediate availability of EHR helps medical professionals reduce duplicate entries and test orders.

Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and HELP systems enable physicians to order laboratory tests and prescription drugs digitally, without leaving a patient room. CPOE eliminates errors associated with handwritten prescriptions that are often illegible. The system checks prescription orders for accuracy and flags any that appear inadequate, effectively reducing preventable medication errors by 55%, according to a study.

HIT, EMR, image viewing, intranet communication and physician-provider order system – useful bedside applications are numerous. They store and transfers patient information, give timely recommendations on clinical problems, alleviate staff’s workload and reduce errors.

Patient Infotainment

Infotainment systems now have hospitals’ full attention since the Affordable Care Act makes their budgets dependent on patient satisfaction. Affordable and easy-to-deploy infotainment systems integrated into the existing hospital infrastructure without compromising hospitals’ legacy equipment make their way to patient rooms. They bridge the IoT devices, vitals monitoring systems, communication and doctors’ back-end programs.

Infotainment terminals enable patients to access entertainment and productivity apps and maintain a certain degree of productivity even during their hospital stay. Communication is vital in patient satisfaction. Not only can patients keep in touch with their family, but first and foremost they can reach the nurses and doctors in real time. This often allows nurses to provide necessary recommendations and help without having to be physically present in the room. Patients benefit from such interactions by maintaining a high level of independence, self-sufficiency, and improved awareness through timely communication with their caregivers.

Self-service attributes to patient satisfaction when patients can order meals after consulting the physician’s dietary recommendations, access online shopping, or control connected curtains, beds, and lighting.

Providers reduce preventable readmissions with the help of educational videos and slide shows that explain the necessary details a patient should be aware of after discharge. Such easily accessible, personalized educational videos and interactive programs help patients understand their conditions and alarming symptoms. Patients can revisit the information, conduct online research, and ask their physicians timely questions on side effects, allergies, etc.

Combined, these capabilities create an all-new patient experience, with an aware and engaged patient sure to give their hospital stay a high rating.

Integration

For the bedside computers to deliver their promise and serve multiple purposes, several obstacles must be overcome.

Interoperability. First, the computers must be able to speak the legacy language and be compatible with the older equipment. Many systems must be linked at the bedside to serve the doctors, so the support for legacy equipment is critical.

Connectivity. Health information exchange (HIE) allows the healthcare providers exchange clinical information across a region, community or country. Besides the HIEs, connectivity is also the wired and wireless connection options. In a perfect scenario, a medical computer installed at bedside should contain as little wiring as possible, to ensure safety and protection from electrical hazards. From this perspective, computers that come with Power-over-Ethernet capability are ergonomic and cost-effective solutions.

Hardware. Computers that serve a dual purpose at patient bedside must be powerful enough to run the resource-hungry EHR programs, yet easy-to-use for the patients. Hence, such technology calls for high-quality components, long product lifecycle, low maintenance costs and low fail rate to prove their value to healthcare facilities that can not afford to replace computers too often.

Safety. Safety certifications such as ingress protection, CDC guidelines and other must be in place for a multipurpose computer installed at the patient bedside. Moreover, with the hospital acquired infections being a serious liability and readmission risk, computers must be easy to disinfect, or better yet, antimicrobial. Plastic casing and touchscreen in regular touch devices are infested with pathogens. Consumer grade touchscreens can not withstand proper disinfection, so an antimicrobial coating on touch screens and a sturdy casing that withstands disinfection with chemical solutions are a must for bedside terminals.

Security. Since dual-purpose computers are used by multiple users, the adequate data protection is necessary. Patients are becoming increasingly cautious about data privacy while doctors and nurses can’t spend too much time on complex password-reliant authorization procedures every time they need to access patient records from a bedside computer. Yet, a data breach is a serious liability under HIPAA. Therefore, medical computers must provide solid data protection mechanisms – encryption, secure user authentication with biometric readers, RFID readers, or Smart Card readers, access restriction to sensitive data, remote location and disk wiping in case of a theft. Such stringent data protection requirements call for the integration of the advanced authentication mechanisms into the build of the computer (integrated smart card or RFID reader and biometric reader).

Such computers can not be consumer versions of mobile devices running Android or iOS. Only Windows or Linux are capable of providing the complete compatibility with the security software and remote access solutions used in healthcare. Patients must feel assured that their records are accessed only by the personnel with a legitimate need to know.

Cost. The affordability of dual-purpose health IT systems is often a deal breaker, where the cost of ownership, maintenance, and fail rate must meet the industry expectations. Medical equipment is more durable than consumer electronics. Therefore, medical computers must be at par with the other equipment to provide the durability and 24/7 uptime for years to come.

When the above requirements are met, integration of dual-purpose All-in-One computers in hospital rooms is cost-effective, while its benefits are generous. Cybernet tracks the vital needs of the healthcare industry in real time, so we build our medical computers aiming to exceed our clients’ expectations.

Responding To Budget Cuts In The Healthcare Industry Through Technology That Serves A Dual Purpose

The financial climate in the US healthcare is currently termed as “an acute funding crisis.” With severe budget cuts in hospital payments, the healthcare system is under a great pressure. On the one hand, the Affordable Care Act urges facilities to adopt healthcare IT such as EMRs and increase the digitization of the workflow. Medicare & Medicaid are shifting from fee-for-service to value-based incentives rewarding cost-effective patient care and high quality. On the other hand, the budget cuts aren’t helping hospitals make the necessary investment in healthcare IT. Hospitals are seeking ways to reduce spending, comply with the regulations and provide better healthcare at the same time.

Science and technology are key enablers in finding ways of improving the quality and efficiency of care and reducing cost. The effective use of technology helps hospitals tackle the budgeting challenge with the all-in-one, multi-purpose devices. Traditional, consumer computers and laptops are giving way to medical all-in-ones while the advent of mobile technologies sees a wide adoption of medical mobile devices.

Installation

Medical all-in-one PCs are transformers of sorts, so no wonder healthcare facilities are solving the problem of space constraints through ergonomic solutions. A computer that has been designed for medical use can be mounted on a wall, on a cart, on the desktop, or at the patient bedside, in operating rooms, intensive care units. Standard VESA holes allow for the easy installation in most hospital areas in a simple, affordable manner.

Deployment

Hardware providers are looking to cater increasingly customizable solutions. Healthcare facilities can order no cost disk imaging, so their computers are shipped with their operating system of choice complete with their enterprise license. This also means the computers come with zero bloatware and the complete productivity suite already installed. It significantly reduces the strain on the overloaded hospital IT staff, reducing the time and cost of the deployment of new devices.

Integration, Interoperability

A medical all-in-one computer or tablet gets naturally integrated into the existing ecosystem of a healthcare facility, further cutting the deployment costs. For example, integration with EMR charting systems such as EPIC, eClinical, Cerner, Meditech and Nextgen, or anesthesia applications does not require additional resources.

A seamless integration also suggests the device’s compatibility with legacy hardware. Support for legacy equipment brings a unified, connected data flow to a medical computer, and when used in conjunction with cloud sync, it provides the personnel with a timely access to critical information about all episodes of care and relevant tests, conditions and reading from the legacy equipment.

Staff Training

It is one thing when decision-makers introduce new technology with the aim to cut a facility’s spending, but it is a different story when the end user on the front line has to make that device work. From that perspective, Windows-based all-in-one computers and tablets require a minimum investment of time or funds. The touchscreen technology has been in the arena for quite a while now, and healthcare workers have been using their personal devices for work during the past few years now (BYOD). Windows-based touchscreens in all-in-one computers and tablets are easy-to-use. They represent the touch-based variant of their traditional desktop computers, so the only aspect requiring additional instructions would be the use of integrated peripherals and biometric authentication.

Serving Multiple Purposes & Streamlining Workflow

Big Data

The use of data in and of itself is a great enabler of healthcare modernization through:

  • boosting medical automation
  • meaningful use of EHR
  • remote patient vitals monitoring
  • reducing errors and avoidable overuse such as duplicate tests
  • advancing telemedicine and as a result reducing readmissions and preventable admissions
  • providing connectivity and timely access to data

Security, Tracking, Automating

The technology that serves multiple purposes integrates a few more cost effective solutions:

  • integrated biometric readers/fingerprint scanners that safeguard sensitive records
  • integrated RFID reader for enhanced patient and inventory tracking
  • integrated CAC/ smart card reader for secure user authentication
  • integrated Barcode reader for a multitude of applications

While biometric readers and smart cards serve the purpose of secure user authentication, RFID and barcode technology has a significantly wider adoption in healthcare – from medication tracking to patient identification, anti-abduction and anti-elopement, counterfeit programs and much more.

Mobility, Patient Monitoring and Involvement

Medical mobile tablets push the boundaries even further. Because they are rugged, they are mounted in ambulance vehicles and used on the go by the first responders. In hospitals, they empower doctors and nurses via a meaningful use of EHR and patient vitals tracking. A medical tablet is widely used by doctors for patient tracking and EMR, and by patients for infotainment, which has proved to increase patient satisfaction significantly.

Through the use of HELP and Apache applications and an integrated barcode scanner in medical mobile tablets, doctors reduce prescription and diagnostic errors, enhance medication prescription and dispensing, as well as streamline prescription issuing.

Fail Rate, Cost of Ownership, Lifespan

The true ROI of healthcare IT is best seen in the long-term perspective, the so-called cumulative impact or “productivity paradox of IT.” Medical computers and tablets that are at par with the industry requirements have a lifespan significantly longer than that of the consumer counterparts used in healthcare.

The increased lifespan is possible due to the low fail rates of medical all-in-ones and tablets, less than 2%. Quality, military-grade components ensure the durability and dependable MTBF of the discreet parts. In some cases, a fanless build adds even more to the equation by eliminating moving parts and deploying a passive cooling system.

Hence, the low fail rate and long lifespan of medical all-in-ones reduce maintenance, repair and replacements costs otherwise inevitable with consumer-grade computers.

Compliance, Liabilities

HIPAA, HITECH, IDC et al. add more strain on the hospitals’ budgets – compliance and liabilities stemming from non-compliance. Data protection and prevention of nosocomial infections are high on the agenda for healthcare facilities. Failure to deploy adequate means of data protection such as encryption and proper user authentication may result in significant fines. Likewise, high rates of hospital-acquired infections account for the bigger part of hospital readmissions. Not to mention how they affect the patient satisfaction.

Medical computers and tablets now address both of these nagging issues. Data security – through integrated biometric or CAC readers, nosocomial infections – through antimicrobial housing and touchscreen.

Even though the cost of delivering quality healthcare is spiraling, the effective use of ergonomic technology that serves multiple purposes helps hospitals reduce costs in both short- and long-term perspective.

Improving The Process Of Disinfecting Technology Within A Medical Space

Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are the causes of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs), and a formidable challenge to healthcare facilities. Environmental sources of these infections are difficult to eliminate; their consequences are hard to treat, and sometimes lethal.

The five types of infections account for more than 85% of HAIs:

  • Pneumonia
  • Clostridium difficile infection
  • Surgical site-related infections
  • Urinary tract infections from catheterization
  • Bloodstream infections associated with Central Line

According to CDC, about 722,000 HAIs occur in U.S. hospitals every year, with 75,000 patients dying as a result. 50% of HAIs occur outside intensive care units (ICUs).  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports HAI rate as 7.1% in 2008, which translates to 4 million patients. The World Health Organization reports approximately 8.7% of patients worldwide develop an HAI. (Source)

Touch As The Means of HAIs Transmission

Hospitals abound in surfaces, which serve as a reservoir of pathogenic microbes, and play a key role in the transmission of HAIs. Pathogens persist for weeks, sometimes months, on common surfaces such as TV remotes, call buttons, medical device controls, computer touchscreens. Pathogens from these surfaces spread directly to patients by touch. Patients get infected indirectly when a healthcare worker transmits pathogens from contaminated surface onto the patient or medical equipment. In most cases, touch is the most common means of HAIs transmission.

Affordable Care Act Urges Healthcare Facilities To Combat HAIs

HAIs prolong hospital stays, result in patient readmissions, increase treatment costs, and are some of the major causes of mortality today. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventable readmissions can lead to financial penalties to hospitals. This has increased a motivation to develop new strategies to reduce HAIs.

Challenges for Disinfection of Equipment

The effective disinfection of equipment is an important element in preventing the HAIs. Memphis VA Medical Center (MVAMC) investigated the areas that present the greatest challenge for disinfection of noncritical equipment in hospitals such as patient-controlled analgesia pumps, blood pressure machines, patient beds, televisions, computers, monitors, etc. Several key concerns identified are:

  • Equipment cleaning is technically challenging and time-consuming.
  • Lack of training in cleaning complex equipment.
  • Missed surfaces during routine cleaning.
  • Insufficient contact time when applying disinfectants on surfaces.
  • Inadequate cleaning of equipment in patient rooms and hallways.

Consumer grade computers, laptops and mobile devices used in hospitals can not be cleaned with disinfecting solutions that can get inside the casing and cause equipment failure. Yet, their screens, casing, and peripherals are infested with pathogens. Hence, they are difficult to clean and are often neglected. Hospitals might not have the policy for cleaning these devices, while the cleaning procedures might not be at par with the contamination danger presented by these surfaces.

Self-Disinfecting, Antimicrobial Surfaces

“Self-disinfecting” surfaces are becoming popular in healthcare, and the adoption rates of equipment and furniture with antimicrobial coating increases. Antimicrobial surfaces, as a rule, contain heavy metals such as silver or copper and other natural materials that have innate antimicrobial properties. Both copper and silver have been used for centuries for infection control practices.

Silver-impregnated privacy curtains have been shown to reduce or delay the infestation of curtains with pathogens.

Impregnating equipment surfaces with copper has been proven to reduce bacterial contamination of surfaces and reduced HAIs, according to a study “Copper surfaces reduce the rate of HAIs in the intensive care units.” According to the International Copper Association, antimicrobial copper continuously reduces bacterial contamination. Through the effective use of antimicrobial agents in surface coating, it is possible to achieve 99.9% reduction of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria.

Copper continues to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi even after repeated contamination and between routine cleaning during the entire product lifecycle.

Besides copper and silver, there is a number of other chemical compounds that are toxic to microorganisms. Some devices may be treated by attaching a polymer or polypeptide to their surface.

Healthcare Applications Call for Antimicrobial Surfaces

The antimicrobial coating, when implemented in medical grade panel PCs, tablets, computers and All-in-One PCs is quickly becoming the new norm for healthcare organizations. ICUs, surgery rooms, patient rooms and other near-patient areas call for equipment that is easy to disinfect, but also antimicrobial in its nature. Some devices now come with the antimicrobial coating in touchscreens, others come with full antimicrobial casing, as CyberMed RX.

Since mobile devices are widely used in U.S. hospitals, they easily travel from patient rooms to operating rooms,  labs, and ICUs, thus becoming the common means of transmitting HAIs. A study in Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials showed bacterial growth on 94.5% of consumer-grade mobile phones used in 14 operating rooms and ICUs. 89.5% of participants never cleaned their mobile phones. Moreover, healthcare workers are not washing their hands often enough, and the compliance rate at many hospitals is as low as 30%. Hence, consumer devices aren’t fit for use in healthcare, especially in near-patient environments.

Disinfection vs Cleaning

Disinfection of touchscreens and casing is not identical to cleaning. A device has to be disinfected after it has been cleaned. CDC defines disinfection as “the use of chemical procedure” that kills all recognized pathogens. However, the frequency of cleaning of touchscreens and tablets used in healthcare is not consistent.

Therefore, a surface that is not antimicrobial can be even more contaminating due to the inconsistent or inadequate disinfection amplified by the failure of workers to adhere to the hand washing requirements.

Antimicrobial surfaces continue killing pathogens in between the disinfection procedures, thus effectively decreasing the contamination risk.

Ingress Protection

Another issue with consumer grade electronics used in healthcare is it can not withstand proper disinfection required in hospitals. Many chemicals in disinfecting solutions have a harsh impact on the casing and touchscreens of common computers and mobile devices. For a computer or mobile device to be apt for disinfection, it should have adequate ingress protection (IP) sealing to prevent the solutions from penetrating the device or damaging its casing. IP also dictates for the casing to be sturdy enough to prevent the material deterioration from the harsh chemicals in disinfecting solutions.

Choosing The Right Device

Hospital administrators need to take into account the risk of HAIs inherent in the use of consumer-grade equipment in hospitals and look towards the medical grade computers and tablets designed for use in healthcare. Even though CDC lists mobile devices as “noncritical equipment,” studies show how non-antimicrobial surfaces are quickly infested with pathogens increasing the HAIs rates. Incorporating computers and tablets with antimicrobial coating and casing allows hospitals to harness the benefits of hi-tech mobility and infotainment without compromising patient and doctor safety.

How Medical Patient-Side Computers Are Used By Doctors And Patients

Computer technology and healthcare are no longer separable, with the rapid adoption of interconnected, smart equipment in all areas of healthcare. A few years ago, patient side infotainment systems grasped the attention of hospitals. Since under the Affordable Care Act the hospitals’ budgets directly depend on the patients’ satisfaction, medical facilities are redesigning certain aspects of patient care. From hotel-like patient rooms to more affordable and easy to deploy bedside infotainment systems, computers and IoT (the Internet of Things) are actively populating the patient rooms.

Infotainment

Bedside medical grade computers attribute a great deal to patient satisfaction. Infotainment terminals let patients not only have access to the entertainment apps but also to preserve a certain degree of productivity unless medically advised otherwise.  With the help of the bedside infotainment terminals, patients can engage in entertainment, self-service, and communication:

  • Watch movies, news, and TV, download on-demand content
  • Make phone calls
  • Communicate via the Internet (chat, email, Skype video calls, conference calls)
  • Play games, listen to music
  • Browse the web
  • Shop online
  • Access patient-end hospital intranets
  • Even work, if medically acceptable
  • Pay bills online
  • Alert staff, call for help
  • Communicate with nurses

An All-in-One medical bedside terminal alleviates the stress and discomfort, lets patients find distraction and keep in touch their families, no matter where they are. Yet, providing numerous communication choices is by far not the most vital advantage of the bedside infotainment terminals.

Self-service

When used as a remote control for a connected bed, curtains, lighting, and other connected items, or to access the hospital’s meal-ordering system with a direct access to the physician’s dietary recommendations is a significant shift in patient experience.

Awareness/Education

Another important use of medical All-in-Ones in patient-side care is education, or rather the increase of health awareness among patients. Doctors effectively use bedside terminals to push educational and instructional videos and presentations to patients. It is a time-saving way to help patients understand their medical condition, what recommendations they should follow once they get home, what diet to follow. Such edutainment is vital in promoting awareness about the symptoms that should be of concern in each particular case, about how to manage prescriptions and how to safely take medicine.

As the trend toward shorter hospital stays continues, more responsibility is on the patient to follow the physician’s instructions. The bedside infotainment terminals contribute greatly to help patients understand the medical recommendations since the instructions are always highly personalized and meet the patient’s unique needs and situation. Often, the presentations are interactive and facilitate the learning process by letting the patients revisit the information and study it as much as they need.

An engaged, well-informed and emotionally satisfied patient is on a fast track to recovery, and is sure to rate his/her hospital stay highly.

Clinical Benefits

A bedside terminal that serves dual purpose – patient infotainment and doctor productivity – solves multiple issues. Doctors no longer need to carry laptops for timely data input, or memorize patient details or write them down on paper.

The medical staff is able to access the patients’ health records directly and immediately during ward rounds, or medical treatment at the bedside. Such accessibility reduces the risk of human error, misinterpretation, and misunderstanding between the healthcare professionals from various departments, and between doctors and patients.

The medical bedside All-in-One can be integrated with multiple back-end applications used by healthcare professionals, from EMR to HIT, to prescriptions issuing and tracking, to image viewing and archiving. It is used to access intranet communication system, as well as the physician-provider order system.

Moreover, medical patient-side computers improve the quality and effectiveness of care, and reduce cost, according to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). For example, the HELP system relies on computers not only to transfer and store patient data but also to give doctors advice on how to approach clinical problems. From a timely antibiotic administration, or a detection of an adverse reaction to a drug, or an alert of an upcoming kidney failure based on creatinine levels – smart systems help physicians save lives.

Requirements

However, not all medical All-in-Ones are made equal. When the bedside infotainment systems first gained traction, some manufacturers focused on patient infotainment. So, when the need for medical software and peripherals integration became evident, their terminals were not capable of running resource-hungry applications, or connect to legacy equipment.

Therefore, medical patient-side computers must be built from the ground up for medical and patient use. Whereas the former implies powerful processor and video card, the latter implies adherence to industry safety standards. A medical patient-side computer must be antimicrobial, dust and waterproof for easy disinfection. It must have a rigorous electric certification to prevent power-related accidents. It must have ample connectivity options and be ergonomic to have a minimum footprint, and reduce the number of wires. This, in turn, prevents accidents related to falls. Yet, a terminal made for medical and patient use must be compatible with legacy equipment for ample patient tracking.

Last, but not least, is the functionality that secures the data. RFID reader, or barcode scanner and CAC reader integrated allow healthcare facilities to protect the sensitive data of patients and comply with strict HIPAA regulations.

Combined, the above benefits of patient side computers for patients and doctors bring numerous benefits to hospitals by reducing the maintenance costs and human errors, saving staff time, and improving efficiency.

Since a medical patient side computer must meet the highest industry standards, its components must be military-grade and durable. In a perfect scenario, a terminal apt for use in a near-patient environment should be fanless to prevent air and dust particles circulation in sterile rooms. These are the guidelines Cybernet follows when designing its medical computers, and following them ensures a <2% overall failure rate of our medical All-in-One PCs with a product life cycle of 5+ years.

Summary

Everything about a robust medical patient side computer is two-fold and of mutual benefit both to doctors and patients, but also to healthcare administrators.

  • Connectivity, personal productivity, and entertainment translate to greater patient satisfaction.
  • Use of terminals as a remote control and means of meal ordering as well as personalized educational videos and presentations makes patients more self-sufficient. This, in turn, frees up some time of the overloaded nurses, who are otherwise stressed to spend more time to tend to patients’ personal rather than clinical needs.
  • Use of patient data tracking with medical back-end applications translates to greater staff productivity, and fewer errors.
  • The high quality of discreet parts, antimicrobial casing, and powerful hardware translate into long product life cycle, low failure rate, and low maintenance costs.

The Dramatic Growth of Medical Automation

Medical automation market is experiencing a dramatic growth, according to market researchers. Grand View Research estimates the global market’s growth to reach $79.4 billion by 2024.

The Use of Smart Technology in Medical Automation Is Propelling the Market

Control systems and ever-increasingly sophisticated medical-grade computers, portable devices, connected IoT devices and software solutions that power them are boosting the industry.

With various medical processes automated, the medical industry reduces the number of errors, contains the costs and streamlines the overall process of medical practices with significantly improved results. The diagnostics and therapy automated equipment propel the market, and the growth is expected to double in the upcoming decade.

In 2015, the medical automation market worldwide was valued at $34.21 billion. The researchers attribute the critical growth to a number of factors.

Accuracy and Reproducibility

The demand for machine-level accuracy and reproducibility in medical procedures and during other medical services delivery, like patient monitoring, is the prime factor fueling the market. Automated systems and smart devices powered by specialized software provide for undeniable advantages. The highly accurate surgical technology and automated defibrillators top the list, with the automated processes in laboratories and pharmacies following suit.

The tedious tasks of sampling, quantity and quality monitoring, labeling and packaging, scanning, and tracking have become automated throughout the industry. This, in turn, has significantly reduced the human efforts and human error, as well as increased the accuracy, reproducibility, and speed. Now more than ever, the medical industry relies on automated systems and smart technologies for productivity, growth, research and evolution.

Technological novelties such as automated material handling and robotic surgery systems have proven their efficiency and further help the market advance.

Mortality Rates

Lamentably, the increased speed, accuracy, and reliability is not the only factor. The World Health Organization reports chronic diseases leading the mortality factors chart worldwide. The cardiovascular diseases are the prime mortality factor, with diabetes, arthritis, cancer and respiratory diseases are accountable for up to 60% of the deaths worldwide. According to NCBI, 40.5% of U.S. population will face one or more cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes alone has skyrocketed over the past three decades – from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. Hence, the increase in the number of chronic diseases creates more need for automated equipment and smart technology to help the industry cater to the increasing needs of the population.

The increases in the geriatric population in the U.S. and Europe in general, and elderly people with chronic conditions in particular, further amplify the need for the medical industry to automate its many processes.

Traceability, Tracking, and Patient Safety

Traceability and tracking, when enhanced with the automated proceedings and smart technology based on barcode scanners and machine vision in hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies further improve the experience – both patients’ and medical professionals’. The faster and more accurate automated medication dispensing, retrieval or storage enforced with automated tracking and traceability ensures the patient safety by reducing the human error.

Cost Reduction

The reduction of operational costs is another factor that contributes to the growth of the medical automation market. The robust, feature-rich and reliable hardware has long life-cycle and provides reliable functionality for years, capable of supporting frequent and critical software updates. The software updates, in their turn, bring innovative functionality and enhanced data security to comply with increasingly rigorous HIPAA regulations.

Growing Markets

Combined, a one-time investment in a robust hardware and software solution provides a long-term expandable and upgradeable functionality – the benefits many organizations have acknowledged. Their positive experience helps the market of medical automation advance in the new markets in Asia-Pacific region, where the report predicts a healthy growth. India, Japan, China, and Taiwan are expected to increase the rate of adoption of automated systems in the medical industry in the upcoming decade. The region is rapidly improving the healthcare infrastructure while the patient awareness is increasing, as the number of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer increases. The growth is especially noticeable in large cities and is further supported by state agencies, such as National Patient Safety Agency in India.

North America is currently the leader of automated systems implementation in medicine, accounting for over 43% of the market share, with the European countries following suit.

Government Support and Regulatory Pressure

The increased government investment and regulatory bodies pressure on the industry add to the number of factors affecting the growth of the automated systems and smart technologies market worldwide. In the U.S., the rising government support for the healthcare and life sciences sector and clinical research fuels the market. In Europe, the state bodies such as the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, responsible for validating automated systems for pharmacies, is expected to boost the market.

Applications and End-Users

Application-wise, 35% of the segment accounts for the therapeutic automation: portable imaging devices, defibrillators, dispensing systems and minimally invasive robotic surgery systems. The benefits of such automation are generous – better efficiency and accuracy of the procedures, improved patient safety and satisfaction, reduced costs in the long-term perspective.

Finally, hospitals and diagnostic centers account for 25% of the end-users of the automated technology in the medical market. The pharmacies and laboratories keep adopting the automated devices and smart technology for diagnostics and treatment, tracking and traceability. The medical training and logistics segment are also estimated to show a 10% Compound Annual Growth Rate.

This is an exciting time for the industry, as technological innovation fuels the evolution of the medical industry, automating the tedious tasks and freeing up the human work hours for more productive work, reducing the costs, enhancing the patient safety and satisfaction. As the technology evolves, so does the market, opening new, previously unexplored opportunities.

Redefining Hospitals for Efficient and Effective Patient Care

Information extracted from a report submitted by Ricoh, intimated that approximately 74 percent of hospitals wielding the power of tablets, particularly medical tablets, to accumulate information, experience higher levels of efficiency, against those who don’t. Against the traditional form of collecting and storing information, patients are more susceptible or relaxed when healthcare providers prance about with their tablets or other mobile devices. Using tablets in a hospital is advantageous for all parties involved, but what about patients? How do they benefit through the use of tablets?

1.Diagnosis/ Medication Education

Quite too often, patients find it a challenge to decipher the elaborate and flowery medical terms conveyed by medical professionals. A tablet, in some cases, has proven to be a mini medical teacher.

What does that mean?

Promoting bedside-friendliness, some doctors were able to roll out their tablets to educate their patients on diagnosis and medications. This was corroborated when an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Henry Feldman, handy with his tablet device, provided a snappy tutorial to a patient on her hip joint.

Additionally, tablets were seen as ideal exhibition tools, as patients were able to peer at test results and images, including X-ray and Ultrasound results! This act got patients involved with what was happening to their bodies and could better clarify to others the gravity of their situation.

Furthermore, tablets are better able to provide education on a patient’s anatomy, which is otherwise difficult to digest. An image does a world of good and is readily assimilated into the patient’s mind. Using these devices to teach patients about their bodies is awe-inspiring. Against merely uttering a patient’s dilemma, showing them on tablets made a world of difference. They actually understood candidly what was portrayed on that small but powerful screen. The tablet is quite the educational, illustrative and instructional tool indeed!

2.Access to Medical History in Emergency Situations

A hospital is no place for loitering. Everyone is on the go, busy and taken up with health affairs. A tablet complements the hectic nature fostered at hospitals. They provide information while mobile and are seamless to carry around. Diametrically opposed to computers and laptops in extremely boisterous hospitals, tablets are a doctor’s best friend and tool to carry around. Conventionally equipped hospitals are rarely able to attest that tablets are ideal, as they’re more accustomed to desktops on rolling carts. This is certainly not the most efficient method, particularly in buzzing hospitals. A doctor needs to have their patient’s medical history on-hand in cases of emergencies. A desktop on a rolling cart just won’t do, especially in these critical situations. Waiting for an available desktop has proven prodigal and even lethal to the patient involved.

A tablet is the ideal solution to replace this predicament. Doctors are able to pull up a patient’s medical history on fly, wherever they’re situated in a hospital. Introducing the handheld is a dandy solution to replace the robust and cumbersome nature of desktops on rolling carts.

To add to the merits patients derive when tablets are used in their care, more time is spent rendering medical treatment, as Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are accessed while doctors roam the halls. Once a doctor enters the room, treatment can be meted out, against spending time scanning through a patient’s medical history. That is absolutely more attention rendered to patients.

Tablets can also be used on rounds. Once new data is entered in the system, it fully synchronizes with the hospital’s EMR. Without a qualm, using tablets for pulling up medical histories have proven effective and saves precious time.

3.Less Risk of Overcharges

Implementing Electronic Health Records (EHR) cost hospitals a pretty penny – it is very expensive. However, if $300 or less is spent on a tablet and issued around the hospital to healthcare professionals, the cost is lessened substantially. In fact, there are companies pining to offer discounts to fully furnish hospitals with tablets.

4.Vast Availability of Apps

Thousands of medical apps are at the disposal of doctors and medical professionals. To be precise, over 97,000 medical apps are available at present, and can be accessed on major tablets such as Kindles, iPads and others. Thorough research can be conducted using these apps and readily available tools to improve existing processes and tasks.

Tablet usage is redefining how hospitals operate, and changing the way patients view healthcare.  As time marches on, experts predict that they will one day become as common as thermometers and the classic stethoscope.

Reducing Cybersecurity Threats with Biometric and Smart Card Readers

Health organizations have dedicated millions toward implementing security tools to thwart cybersecurity threats. Unfortunately, these efforts have been challenged, as firewalls, prevention systems, intrusion detection and email security have proven that executives and employees are among the biggest threats. To prevent this threat to cybersecurity, healthcare providers are urged to implement strong and effective authentication measures to control who access what within a healthcare facility. As a countermeasure to cybersecurity threats by employees and executives, biometric and Smart card readers have proven effective.

Biometric Readers

With the implementation of electronic health records, there has been positive feedbacks regarding the effectiveness of healthcare organizations and quality patient care. As more hospitals and medical centres migrate to these electronic systems, there are increasing concerns about data integrity management, prevention of information from unauthorised access and corruption.

As these electronic health record systems proliferate, they become increasingly vulnerable, susceptible to cybersecurity threats. Preventing corruption within the system is a life and death situation; hence, these healthcare organizations should proceed with care. This ensures that the appropriate care is given to the right patient, and medical records are current and connected across the network.

To address this issue, healthcare organizations need to integrate biometric readers into their systems. This reinforces the security of medical records without deferring workflow. Implementing biometric readers within your healthcare system can be used for the following security purposes:

  • Absolute privacy of patient information
  • User authentication
  • Secure storage and retrieval of data
  • PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) Management

Through a biometric system, operational efficiencies prevail, as a patient’s identification is tied to their appropriate treatments and medical records. In addition, this system has achieved what many medical agencies pined for – a universal patient ID number – which possesses the capacity to connect patients to a unique number linked to biometrics.  Overall, medical computers with biometric readers provide tremendous results in accuracy, specifically for identifying staff and patients.

CAC /Smart Card Readers

The healthcare industry is awash with smart cards. Smart cards are similar in appearance to credit cards, but the security within the card is just so much more. With a microprocessor embedded within the card, the host computer and smart card reader actually communicates with the microprocessor. The processor then executes or enforces whatever command is given when used. When complemented by a smart card reader, this can be used as a powerful means of authentication. When implemented within hospitals, smart cards strengthen the hospital’s security, providing so many benefits. Among the many benefits include:

  • Irrefutable patient identification across the board, including organization and geographic boundaries.
  • Counters the provision of providing duplicated ID cards
  • Capacity to locate where a patient’s ID has been used.
  • Provides a secure means by which patient health information can be accessed
  • Provides confirmation of a patient’s medical insurance.
  • Provides risk mitigation in countering identity theft, fraud and even breaches to data.
  • Safely stores identifiers for patients and deactivation for lost identifiers.

How Hospitals Benefit when Using Biometrics and CAC Cards with an EMR/EHR System

An EMR system is very important. Securing medical records stored on these systems is tantamount to the continued operation of any healthcare organization. A compromise to this system could spell immense trouble. To secure EMR systems from cybersecurity threats, biometrics and CAC cards have done wonders for healthcare providers in various ways.

  • Users of EMR (nurses, physicians, pharmacists etc.) enjoy an easy but powerful login process, without the need to remember difficult passwords.
  • Quick and easy access to their patient’s health records. This improves the collective process of gathering information, as it does not need to be collected from the patient’s memory.
  • Information is on hand in cases of emergencies to ensure successful results.
  • Physicians do not need to distribute a patient’s medical history to another as records are integrated. Importantly, the smart cards are used with an EMR system to prevent or minimize the risk of a patient’s confidential information being leaked or a stolen identity.
  • Smart cards reduce the risk of excess medical tests and hospital admissions that aren’t necessary.

These procedures are all important for healthcare providers. Once biometric readers and smart cards are implemented in conjunction with medical PCs and tablets, cybersecurity threats will be significantly reduced, as executives and employees would have received education on security measures and effective authentication measures in various healthcare facilities.

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.

Mobile Medical Applications of the Industrial Computer: The Case of the Medical Emergency Vehicle

The demands of modern mobile healthcare are much more challenging than those of most other industries. This is where lives are at stake, and emergency situations arise at little to no notice. In recent years, sophisticated computing has worked hand-in-hand with infrastructural advancements to increase the capabilities of mobile healthcare. Medical grade computers and tablets are now completely geared towards facilitating the provision of state-of-the-art medical care in mobile or makeshift situations.

Mobile Medical Care

Mobile medical care encompasses a host of concepts ranging from virtual mobility – such as patient data sharing – to actual physical portability of medical equipment and processes. The most tangible illustration of the latter can be seen in modern medical emergency vehicles. This includes ambulances that are used to transport patients from one station to another, as well as non-transporting EMS vehicles that are dedicated to moving medical equipment and supplies, and in some cases paramedics, to a site of emergency.

Up until a decade ago, medical vehicles were hardly equipped to adequately cater to emergencies. Today, industrial computers play a critical role in patient care during medical emergencies. Sturdy, shock proof and highly sophisticated, these rugged computers and tablets are designed to withstand demanding situations, and deliver results that ordinary computers could not have.

Fanless Rugged Mini PCs in Mobile Medical Care

The most commonly used medical tablets are the fanless rugged mini PCs. These industrial computers package superior performance in a casing that is resistant to heat, water damage, dust, microbes, shocks and vibrations. Their fanless cooling systems further add to their toughness and give them small footprints that can be docked into any setup – in this case a medical emergency vehicle. Modern industrial mini PCs are also equipped with wireless functionality, again adding to the convenience with which they can enable paramedics to stay connected with hospitals and medical centers.

RFID Scanners

Industrial computers also boast of some highly developed features that give them an edge over even the most top-notch regular PCs. Medical care providers can use the built in RFID scanners in these systems to bring themselves up to speed with a patient’s medical records and test results and update this information with details of any drugs administered or procedures performed during transit to a medical facility.

Industrial Computers in the Mobile Medical Industry

The rapid increase in the number of industrial computers used in the mobile medical industry is increasing with time. Thanks to these devices, medical emergency vehicles are now able to provide advanced life support to patients in critical conditions. They also allow basic tests and prepping procedures to be conducted in transit, and relay this information in real time to the hospitals the concerned vehicles are affiliated to. Even blood banks have adopted industrial tablets as the control devices in their mobile donation centers, using built-in barcode scanners to acquire donor data, thus saving precious time and effort.

Mobile medical care has broken new ground worldwide, and the bulk of the credit goes to industrial computers. Visualizing a future where a standalone vehicle can provide advanced medical care to a remote location without immediate hospital access is no longer all that difficult.

Medical Grade Computers: Improving Patient Outcomes in the OR

A successful operation requires the seamless coordination of highly skilled individuals. If a surgical team is not able to work in unison, they won’t be able to provide the necessary amount of care to properly take their patients through the different stages of an operation. Many things can go wrong in the intense environment of an operating room. The tension between members of the surgical team can be high behind the closed doors of an operating room, especially when a patient’s life is at risk. Technological innovations in the field of medicine have led to improvements in operating room safety.

One of these technological innovations manifests in the form of medical grade computers. These heavy-duty computers have had a huge effect in creating safer operating room environments for patients, both directly and indirectly. Here’s why.

Medical Grade Computers Help Surgeons Prepare for Operations

Many surgeons use medical grade computers to prepare themselves for an operation since they can run simulations of the surgery itself – before it actually takes place in real-life. These simulations work like an athlete’s training regime in the sense that they help surgeons gather the information needed to make sure that the surgery performed will be a successful one. These types of simulations also help surgeons prepare for unexpected things a patient’s body may do during surgery.

Medical Grade Computers Help Surgeons During Operations

In today’s operating rooms, technology plays an increasingly more important role in patient care, from monitoring a patient’s vital signs to displaying footage being recorded by cameras attached to probes.

Medical apps often require substantial amounts of RAM and power in order to run properly, especially during surgical operations that can last for hours. That’s why medical grade computers provide OR surgeons and nurses with the performance needed to run demanding medical applications, especially during higher-risk surgeries.

Because operations are so reliant on technology, however, it’s important that the technology be dependable. Working with unreliable equipment can be distracting for surgeons, especially when the slightest movement can mean the difference between life and death. Medical grade computers are rugged, durable and designed to have extremely low fail-rates.

Medical Grade Computers Help Keep the Operating Room Sterile and Safe

Microbes can cause disease and infection as patients are trying to heal, which is why operating rooms must be kept sterile at all times. The same goes for the equipment that will be used during surgery. Medical grade computers are fanless, easy to clean and feature an anti-microbial coating that keeps germs at bay.

Medical grade computers are playing an increasingly more important role in operations around the globe. These powerful pieces of technology are changing the game by improving how surgeries are executed, as well as increasing patient safety along the way so that more and more surgeries are successful. As technology advances, it will continue to improve patient outcomes.