Tag Archives: medical grade computers

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.

medical computer and computer on wheels

3 Methods of Reducing HAIs in Hospitals

The US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has seen a decline in HAIs (Healthcare-Acquired Illnesses) in the past recent years. For instance, invasive MRSA infections have seen a 36-percent reduction between 2009 and 2014 per the health.gov website. That’s the result of a combined effort of following the specific action plan available on the site. However, healthcare as a whole can always make stronger efforts to reduce HAI contraction frequency. There are many tech-related problems that still contribute to the number of HAIs (and related deaths) that can be fixed by ensuring your hospital technology meets the grade. Here’s how to combat them with the tech in your hospital.

Dust-Free is a Must

One of the contributing factors for HAIs is something we can’t see very well—dust. Dust is more dangerous than we think, but it’s important we unpack what that term means. A large percentage of dust consists of dormant, decaying, and live microscopic particles, often particles that can be hazardous to patients. A healthy individual’s immune system is capable of protecting against stray floating particles, but to hospital patients under surgery or with compromised immune systems, many precautions need to be taken. One single infected particle from the air settling inside of a patient with an open wound can turn a hospital visit into an infection that can spread to the masses.

Experts in the field stress that fanless medical computers are important for hospital use but are mandatory for surgical procedures and anesthesiology efforts. A fanless design is a proper feature on a medical computer that significantly reduces the risk of HAIs and airborne infections. A computer without a fan intake won’t liberally spread dust mites and bacteria through the air. Besides, fans are considered heavy failure points for computers. A fanless construction won’t perform the impossible by eliminating all dust, but it opens up more possibilities for medical practitioners—like running the medical computer at the bedside to record a surgical video. Regardless of the use of the medical computer, a fanless design is superior for cleanliness. It boosts device longevity too.

HAIs Go Beyond Dust Into Microbes

Fanless designs are great for clean environments, but there’s still a presence of pestilence that we aren’t able to see. We invite you to take a closer look at any surface with a high-powered microscope to see what dangers lurk on nearly every surface in a hospital. Microbes thrive on all surfaces, especially surfaces that are frequently touched thousands of times per day. A computer on wheels that nurses take room to room is no stranger to touch, so this kind of computer needs a little more oomph to protect everyone against the smallest of threats.

Every true medical computer has an antimicrobial housing with a resin mixed into the plastic to help reduce HAIs. Fanless design is a necessary feature for a clean-room environment, but an antimicrobial housing is that extra “oomph” feature that a proper medical computer should have. It discourages microbe spread and growth. HAIs can be reduced further with these integrated features you’ll find in computer on wheels.

Spray Directly on the Medical Computer

It’s easy to be in a mindset of “constant cleaning” when in a hospital. Typically there are hand sanitizer stations at every patient door and at nurse stations, so seeing disinfectant everywhere helps to remind everyone to wash up often. Even with strong efforts in keeping clean hands, infections are still possible. Computers on wheels are highly frequented by hands (especially those with touchscreens), so disinfecting the computer is a no-brainer for physicians and staff. The problem lies with the computer itself—not all of them are built to take constant sprays. One sudden flick of the wrist could send a jet of industrial disinfectant onto a capacitor, and suddenly you’ve turned a cleaning problem into an expensive IT problem. That’s why you should look for a medical grade computer with an IP65 rating.

An Ingress Protection rating of IP65 is prime for a reduction in HAIs because you can spray directly on the sealed screen without worry of damaging the components of the computer. Besides, bacteria have an affinity for hiding in the nooks and crannies of unsealed bezels, reducing the effectiveness of a direct disinfection. It’s just a superior solution to tier-1 computers found in a retail store.

 

A high frequency of Healthcare-Acquired Illnesses in a hospital or clinic puts the cleanliness standards behind doors into question. It’s important to be “clean conscious” at all times when working with people, but ensuring that all computers have these features can reduce HAI frequency and add an extra layer of protection for everyone, whether medical staff or patient. Take a stance against the microscopic culprits and arm your hospital with the best medical computers on the market today. 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.

 

Computer on wheels or medical computer

Mishaps in Hospitals from Inadequate Hardware Problems

Technology is great. We can stick to 8 hour work days while increasing productivity and then go home to families or plan out our next self-driven project. Granted that’s what technology is supposed to help us do, but sometimes bumps in the road of problem A to solution B can be tech-central. Technology can fail, unfortunately. Thankfully, the time invested to restore tech to working order is a sacrifice hospitals are willing to accept to bring better and less erroneous healthcare to patients. However, when older and inadequate tech is more of a burden, it’s time to consider scrapping what used to work ten years ago with something that can reduce tech-related stress and hangups that drain more time than necessary to get the job done.

Spotty WiFi with Computers on Wheels

It’s a constant problem for the 21st century in hospitals everywhere—spotty wireless communications in every corner of the hospital building. Call up a nurse’s desk to ask what issues they’re facing with technology and inconsistent WiFi will be mentioned. Chalk it up to weakened signals from aging hardware and insufficient components. It’s not feasible to remove that problem for good, but it’s possible to pinpoint key factors in technology—mostly residing in a hospital’s medical computers—that can be improved so WiFi isn’t a problem of which patient room you’re in or where you’re standing. Here’s WiFi woes and ways to restore the fidelity in the “Fi.”

Take a hypothetical case—a nurse using a cloud-based EMR system on a cheap laptop finds that in patient room 105 the WiFi doesn’t kick in, and so entering information relies on memory, written notes, or a silly, cumbersome workaround. That’s not ideal for a hospital, especially when “zero” can be a dangerous entry for a patient refill or a different metric. If the IT department has ensured that the wireless infrastructure is the highest standard on the market, then the culprit lies within the laptop. The wireless card inside of the machine doesn’t communicate well with the wireless routers in the hospital.

If that’s the reason for the signal drop, it’s time for IT to consider upgrading their computing efforts to medical computers with Intel-certified wireless cards instead of laptops that power cheap alternatives. An Intel dual-band wireless AC card is the current standard for wireless technology in a hospital. Not only more secure, these cards have the know-how to switch between wireless routers on the fly without signal loss. Computers on wheels are often pushed through several hospital wings and floors, jumping from one wireless router to the next. Intel wireless cards are secure and stable enough to swap from router to router seamlessly. It’s a hardware standard that computers on wheels and medical devices need to operate optimally. Besides, less stress on the end-user is always a positive thing.

Hospitals Don’t Shut Down—Neither Should the Hardware

Twenty thousand hours. That’s how long a standard hard drive disk lasts per average metrics and regular use. It may seem like a lot, but that’s just over two years if you do the math. Medical computers operate at near 24/7 runtimes. If there’s a hard drive failure in two years, that’s not a very strong lifespan for a computer to store data. The last mishap a nurse or physician wants is for the digital rug to be pulled out beneath them with a hard drive failure while they’re busy entering patient data into a medical computer. The drive can’t be sent off to data rescue because it would violate HIPAA laws. So, what to do?

Thankfully, technology has improved hard disk storage so there aren’t moving parts to break—solid state drives have a longer lifespan than regular platter hard drives, but that doesn’t rule the smarter tech out of defect or an eventual kaput. A medical grade computer with a military-grade solid state hard drive will push that two-year average life cycle to beyond five years. If the looming storage failure is still a concern for staff—which can happen at any given moment—then a backup drive coupled with the original solid state can serve as a proper safety net. IT can clone the surviving drive and restore the medical computer to optimal working status. Besides, a computer cycle for a hospital should be five years to stay with EMR software development. Having a hard drive that’s graded to last beyond a purchase cycle is ideal.

Shoddy Medical Computer Touch Screens

Touch screens are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Introduce the dirt and grease from five separate individuals’ hands onto a touch-screen interface and an infection may reside somewhere in the fingerprint jungle. They’re not always the easiest to clean either—spray disinfectant directly on a medical monitor and the internal components could suffer from adverse effects from the disinfectant (broken pixels, unresponsive touch controls, or an immediate transformation into a paperweight) running into the crevices of the monitor. Some insufficient touch screen tech needs constant calibration to ensure what’s touched is the intended function. Pressing “Close” should never result in “Administer Medicine”—we shudder at that thought. But there’s still tech problems galore in working with touch screens that don’t measure up to what hospitals need.

The kind of tech needed in a hospital is what’s called 5-Wire Resistive technology. Avoiding too much tech-talk, it’s a more durable technology than capacitive because it holds up to scratches and cosmetic imperfections, it’s easier to work with since it doesn’t require skin contact, it’s cheaper to manufacture, and it lasts longer than the newer capacitive technology. Couple these features on a medical computer and bye-bye tech problems.

It isn’t intuitive to think of hard drives, touch screen technology or wireless cards when you’re talking about patient care. But in today’s HIT world, technology is one of the driving factors in providing the absolute best user experience for healthcare practitioners so they can focus on taking care of patients. For more information on how a computer designed specifically with healthcare in mind is different than a commercial grade computer you can contact us today to learn more about our medical computers.

Advantages of Powered and Non-Powered Medical Carts

Any hospital or clinic will have a range of technology products to assist in patient care. Sometimes a hospital’s budget restraints can’t afford the latest in technology, so they opt for more financially viable solutions. Other times the needs of a medical staff might outweigh the potential high costs for equipment, so purchasing decisions might anchor to more sophisticated, familiar technology. The same is true for medical carts. When browsing for medical cart options, it’s important to note the positive aspects for each powered and non-powered medical cart. Here’s a look at both options in detail. We hope this serves as a guide to make a decision as to what’s right for your hospital and staff.

Advantages of Non-Powered Medical Carts

A non-powered cart meant for use as a workstation on wheels is going to be substantially cheaper than it’s powered counterpart. Battery-less carts with wheels and a few functioning devices (key lockable drawers, VESA mounts, etc.) can range in price depending on the quality of the build and the brand, but ballpark figures usually run under two thousand dollars for a strong solution. Hospitals and clinics looking to buy in bulk will definitely save in the long run when choosing a non-powered medical cart. Plus, since they have fewer components and no internal batteries, they weigh much less—reducing overall fatigue when a nurse pushes a cart around for several hours. They’re more maneuverable, have slimmer profiles, use fewer cables, receive power from the all-in-one computer installed on it, and there’s no bulky batteries—which, per the FDA, have been known to catch fire recently. They’re safer options because there’s no involving of electricity, no risk of abusing battery power, and can fit in tighter spaces. Typically, medical computers with hot swappable batteries are ideal on top of non-powered carts so you can navigate hospital hallways without worrying about wires, where they’re connected, and how long the battery life will last—especially if the mounted computer upon it has triple hot swappable batteries. A non-powered cart doesn’t need to be plugged in for a recharge. Instead, if the computer installed on it has swappable batteries, set the drained batteries aside to charge and install a freshly-charged set—they’re more stable than the battery technology in powered carts. Lastly, fewer components and functioning devices mean easier troubleshooting if a problem ever arises, meaning fewer IT requests.

Advantages of Powered Medical Carts

Powered carts have increased functionality with electronic locking drawers, built-in medication dispensers, the ability to power peripherals like barcode scanners or printers, powered height adjustment, LEDs that illuminate the keyboard and cart path, control interfaces, and other components that are better solutions for hospitals that want more mobile functionality.  Plenty of powered carts use different “modes” of operation to facilitate their intended use—”pharmacy” mode for instance on some keep all drawers unlocked so medications are easier to retrieve as someone makes their rounds to distribute to patients. Several carts have motor-powered height adjustment controls that can raise or lower the cart just by holding a button. You can select from a wider range of medical grade computers with a powered cart since a majority of the marketed computers don’t have hot swappable batteries—a necessary feature for non-powered carts. A powered cart is a more expensive option, but the functionality from the powered cart alone makes up for the difference in price.

Whichever type of cart is more fitting for your budget or hospital needs, ensure what is mounted to the cart is also sufficient for your rounds and patients. A medical cart without a proper medical grade computer could pose a potential risk when used near patients. For non-powered workstations, a medical all-in-one with hot swap batteries can help save some money while still giving you the functionality for bedside charting and other tasks. For powered carts, any medical grade computer could suffice, provided that computer meets the other requirements for use.  Neither choice is right or wrong. It just depends on the unique needs of your particular project. For more information, feel free to contact us.

hot swappable battery on a workstation with wheels

Safety Awareness in Hospitals with Workstations on Wheels

Sometimes the smallest details of safety awareness in hospitals can prevent disaster. Fires can start in the blink of an eye. Tripping hazards may not be as apparent until someone unfortunately falls victim to a few dangling wires. It’s important to be aware of what could turn into a problem before the problem arises. There’s the obvious hazards like spills that need to be cleaned immediately, or frayed wires of a hospital appliance that need to be replaced. Those with a keen eye and a constant awareness of safety can spot hidden hazards, however.

Medical Cart Batteries Have Caught Fire

Recently, the FDA announced a lot of medical cart batteries have been malfunctioning, catching fire, or exploding in hospitals. The FDA received several complaints about these hazards in a 6-month timespan. They’re batteries used in crash carts, point of care medical devices, and medication dispensing carts as well. Many sources online reveal that battery fires in medical carts are very difficult to extinguish—they require burial to put out the flames! The batteries in question were certified and met all safety guidelines, begging the question of what’s causing malfunctions. It’s likely the case that the capacity and age of the battery are the culprit factors, so being aware of the capacity and how old a battery pack may be are strong methods of avoiding a possible explosion. If a medical cart and its huge battery are reaching senior status, it’s time to upgrade for the sake of efficiency and safety.

One way to overcome this safety hazard is to purchase a non-powered medical cart and pair it with a computer that has hot swappable batteries. There are a number of benefits to this type of solution. In addition to mitigating the fire hazard risk, non-powered carts are lighter weight and more maneuverable making life easier for nurses and other end users. Also, batteries can be taken out and replaced with backups while the computer is still running, allowing for 24/7 operability without the need to plug a cart into an outlet to charge. Because the batteries are regularly being swapped out of the computer to recharge, if there’s any sign of battery corrosion, battery expansion, or just a failure to hold a charge, the battery can be properly disposed of and replaced with a spare. Plus, the hot swappable battery is smaller than those found in medical carts. Since the medical cart computer relies on three batteries of lower capacity to operate properly, they aren’t drained as often and are less susceptible to overheating, explosions, fires, or other battery hazards.

Clean Up Clutter with a Workstation on Wheels

A common hazard listed by Department of Health and Human Services in their safety document is something we’re all capable of creating: clutter. Computers are often notorious hubs of clutter, especially when coupled with several peripherals like printers, barcode scanners and cords connecting a monitor to a computer.  Cable sleeving is a viable prevention strategy to defuse hazards, but a better solution is to minimize on cabling as much as possible.

Enter the best solution for reducing cable clutter: an all-in-one medical computer. It’s easier to reduce cable clutter if your medical computer system has fewer cables! Some units can be equipped with integrated fingerprint scanners and RFID readers, eliminating the need for 3rd party peripherals, thus eliminating even more cord clutter. Plus, with these sorts of computers they can be VESA-mounted into a workstation on wheels—the system’s few cables can be routed through cable management panels so they’re out of sight, out of mind, and off the floor. If you couple them with a wireless keyboard and mouse or use a touch-screen keyboard (very common on all-in-one medical cart computers), you’ve basically enhanced the safety of the workstation on wheels.

Protect Against the Unseen Hazard

The increase in computer usage for hospitals has been fantastic for productivity and other reasons, but research has shown a rise in VRE, MRSA, and PSAE, three common bacteria that are transferred easily through keyboard and computer contact. Infections from these bacteria are the least apparent hazards in comparison to battery fires and loose wires,  so it’s important to be aware of all that is commonly touched.

However, the solution to these bacteria problems can go a step further. Medical computers that are rated to be water and dust resistant (also known as IP65) can be disinfected freely and often by spraying directly on their touch screens. Also, if your keyboard is IP68-rated you can actually submerse it in water and spray on it directly to disinfect it heavily since keyboards see a lot of interaction from several individuals. In addition, medical grade computers will also often have an antimicrobial housing to further prevent the spread of bacteria and germs.

Keeping safety awareness in the back of your mind is ideal in any situation, but especially in a hospital where certain computer hazards can arise either from aged medical cart batteries, unkempt wires from poorly-installed computers, or bacteria that can infect several people. If you would like to find out more information about how medical grade computers are safer for your patients you can contact Cybernet here.

medical computer systems and hot swappable battery functions

3 Ways Hospital Networks Can Impact Patient Care and How to Combat Them

No hospital network is perfect. An entire infrastructure for patient information is at the whim of Murphy’s Law unfortunately, and one glitch in an entire system can throw off the operations of a hospital in the blink of an eye, costing a chunk of productivity time, money, and the worst—patient safety and health. Online sources point to previous cases of such flops, like the Martin Health System in Stuart, Florida. Their infrastructure recently had an internal hardware failure, setting back hospital EMR records for about two days. Although network systems and their medical computers were restored as quickly as IT could manage the problem, patient care significantly dropped and plenty of vulnerabilities were introduced. Here are a few problems hospitals face when entire networks turn haywire and solutions to minimize mishaps.

Power Outages Cause More Than Just Downtime

Let’s say you’re a medical professional making rounds for about 12 patients, suddenly the power drops out, and the emergency generators have failed! The patient infotainment systems in each patient room have shut down, EMR systems have stopped tracking, medical devices won’t operate, and you’re in the middle of a nightmare. It’s a more frequent problem than you would think. Hospital operations must continue even in downtime, so you’ll need to alter all your work to manual processes. To give you an idea of the severity of a power outage in a hospital, online sources report some patients at a major hospital were on electronic respirators that failed during an outage, and hospital staff attempted rescues by using manual respirators. Unfortunately, the manual efforts weren’t enough to sustain the patients’ well being.

So what’s the best way to combat the potential hazards of a full power outage? Medical computer systems with a hot swappable battery function can ensure you’re not without power. If you’re operating a respirator with a medical computer system that needs continuous power, using a system with sustainable battery life in the mishap of a failed power infrastructure can save lives. Even having a medical computer with an internal backup battery can be enough to bridge the gap between a power outage and getting backup generators online. Compromises in patient care won’t happen if your computer hardware is equipped to run on internal batteries.

Network Failures Cause a Wealth of Different Problems

Network infrastructures aren’t perfect, and at times components can fail—refer to the first paragraph about Murphy’s Law.  If you’re operating EMR software on a consumer-grade computer and the wireless network card fails, the problem will need to be diagnosed to take time away from patient care. This forces medical staff to resort to manual documentation and charting—which can introduce human error. Patients may get delayed medication, incorrect dosage, or the wrong medication because of a network hardware component failure. Compromises in patient care can happen simply because of the wrong hardware.

Ensuring your networked computers are equipped with proper wireless connectivity is one way to safeguard against network mishaps. First, it requires that the components of the computer are industrial-grade, made with high-quality transistors, diodes, and capacitors, to increase a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating. Second, it’s best to utilize Intel-certified wireless network cards within your medical computer system to ensure high-quality connectivity in an environment where wireless communications are supremely important and likely to drop connection frequently. These two factors will reduce potential wireless hardware mishaps so patient care and data aren’t compromised.

Network Intrusions on your Medical Computer Systems Can be Devastating

Security in an online network shouldn’t be an afterthought; a single intrusion into a medical computer on a wireless network can introduce the wrong individuals onto a network, violating HIPAA regulations and compromising patient data for potentially thousands of people. Medical records actually sell for a pretty penny on the black market, more than credit card numbers, because people abuse them to get prescription drugs illegally. Plus, if there’s HIPAA violations it can cause a hospital between 50 to 100 thousand dollars per the severity of the violation—or it may end up shutting hospital doors.

To ensure patient safety and continued hospital operation, the solution is ensuring whatever medical computer systems you’re using have two-factor authentication protocols. Some states actually have TFA as a requirement. Plus, having a medical computer system with a Trusted Platform Module to encrypt the information is another layer of protection you can add so even if the internal hard drives are lost, stolen, or otherwise, the data on them can’t be easily read or retracted. Using a medical computer system with Imprivata Single-Sign On is one of the highest secure standards for medical professionals to safeguard information and make authentication easier than typing in huge, confusing passwords.

Disasters will happen in the medical world, but precaution can ensure fragile lives and important hospital operations aren’t sacrificed when mishaps strike. At Cybernet, we engineer our medical computers with these contingencies in mind. Ensure you’re protected by using the right medical computer systems to take care of patient needs—contact us today to learn more.

 

medical computers and emr certification

How EMR Software Upgrades Can Drive Computer Hardware Updates

The demand for computer capability has increased because of encroaching software complexity; we can no longer use clunky, old hardware to help our doctors and nurses complete an entire hospital shift. It’s not just a matter of how slow a process might run on a medical computer, but rather if a computer is compatible with software in question and how physicians interact with the computers. One of the reasons aging computers put restraints on the workflow for a hospital is because of increasing software demands, so here are several ways that software may drive the necessary upgrade in hardware.

Medical Computers are Popular for Multitasking

Computers don’t always serve just one purpose—multitasking is a commonplace activity, so what’s required is enough memory in order to support the concurrent programs they run simultaneously. Not enough RAM will turn any computer sluggish—multitasking and load time will suffer. It isn’t always easy to install more after deployment depending on the system. Some are sealed shut to prevent ingress, and so installing RAM may damage the internal components. Or, if the person installing RAM isn’t careful, the entire computer could receive electrostatic discharge turning it into a nice paperweight. The best way to address this problem is ensuring each computer in a deployment has more RAM than the minimum to run a particular software product. It’s a good idea to install the recommended level of RAM or go beyond what’s recommended. Thankfully, a lot of medical computers have customization options to choose how much RAM should be installed into the system before deployment.

EMR Systems Need Processing Power

If your EMR system is running sluggish, it’s time to upgrade. Most likely it’s a problem of an aged processor that can’t handle the number of Floating Point Operations Per Second (FLOPS), one measurement among many to determine the speed of a processor. Imagine all the frustrated doctors and nurses waiting to open a patient’s chart  while the computer cycles for several minutes just to display information. With the wide processor availability on the market, it can be a little confusing on what to select for a processor. Computers with Epic certification often run 6th generation Intel Skylake processors, common CPUs for a lot of Epic’s more complex modules. Medical staff can rest assured that the processor can handle software modules with ease and won’t suffer from excessive load times or computer hang-ups.

EMR Software Modules Utilize Touch Screen

A computer’s internal components aren’t the only factor in running a software product optimally. The way a doctor, nurse, or staff member interfaces with the software is also important. Imagine installing a VESA mountable computer only to find there’s no surface for using a keyboard or mouse and the computer isn’t touch-screen enabled! Touch screen functionality is important because it frees up the hands and removes the need for a physical keyboard if there’s no space for one. Plus, some EMR software products are only compatible with screens that are 24 inches diagonally in order to display all patient information. Computers with Epic certification are typically 24 inches or wider because of the visual aspect ratio for Epic; anything smaller and the software won’t run optimally—or at all.

Dedicated Video is a Must for some EMR Software

Surgeons using EMR software to give them instant video feedback—take an endoscopy for example—can’t use unclear, low-definition, choppy video to perform successful operations on patients. Upgrading to a surgical display equipped with a dedicated NVIDIA card is best for surgeons so they’re able to see in real-time what they’re doing as they perform on patients. Integrated video cards don’t provide that level of sophistication, so they pale in comparison to what a surgical display might provide.

Increased Software Security Means Increased Hardware Security

HIPAA violations are no laughing matter, and EMR software is developed with security in mind to prevent those violations. However, the software here dictates the requirements for hardware. Without a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), patient data is at a greater risk. TPMs encrypt patient information so drives can’t be pulled out of a medical computer and installed into a different computer, adding a layer of protection to sensitive information.

At Cybernet, we work with our partners to understand the complex challenges that healthcare IT professionals face on a daily basis. Because of that, we have engineered a full line of medical grade computers specifically engineered for multiple hospital and healthcare applications. For more information you can check out our website or contact us here.

 

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.

 

 

medical computer systems

3 Ways Healthcare Usage Dramatically Impacts Hardware Longevity

It’s important for medical computers to operate 24/7 since healthcare is just as demanding. Internal components do not last forever, unfortunately, and demanding uptime for computers can seriously affect the longevity of hardware. According to an analysis by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, The FDA issued almost six thousand recalls to hardware between 2006 and 2011, with approximately 1,200 of the recalls from computer-related failures. A vast majority of those recalls affected patient health. This study alone outlines a problem that hospitals face with computer-related failures and how those have affected patients—injury or worse. The FDA monitors reports of malfunctions and other problems after their approved hardware goes into the field in order to make adjustments to their regulations, but it’s an ongoing, never-perfect process. The best that can be done with post-fielding is ensuring stricter regulations on hardware, but that doesn’t guarantee that a hospital will utilize an FDA-approved piece of hardware to monitor patient health or control a medical device. The best way to minimize adverse events and malfunctions from a computer hardware standpoint is to ensure all components in a hospital’s set of medical computer systems are used with healthcare in mind. Here’s what we mean in detail below.

Medical Computer Systems Benefit from Solid State Drives

The unseen infection is terrible for hospitals and can result in nosocomial infections, so hospitals must take all precautions possible to ward away those infections. One such precaution has to do with patient data storage. Standard platter hard drives cause problems in hospitals by circulating dust mites and airborne germs throughout the air with their moving parts. A lot of consumer-grade computers only come with one hard drive without a backup solution, so if hospitals store their patient data on a regular hard drive without redundancy or backup, that’s a risky situation from data loss and HIPAA violation standpoints. Standard platter hard drives last (according to some sources) four years on average, but that’s with standard use, not constant. A lot of medical computer systems use solid state drives that, on average, last several years longer than older hard drive technology. Why? Fewer moving parts and less dust. Typically in a sealed plastic enclosure, solid state drives in embedded PCs alleviate a hardware component’s greatest threat—dust—and don’t use moving parts to read data. Solid state drives are put to the test from manufacturing plants via rigorous read/write tests and hold up against older technology. That’s why it’s crucial to select the best components to ensure the longevity of life for a medical panel PC and to protect patient data. Plus, medical computer systems often use solid state drives in pairs for redundancy and backup, ensuring nothing is lost when a hard drive failure occurs. Use of paired solid state drives combat three problems in one—spreading of airborne illnesses and dust, better longevity because of no moving parts, and patient information backup with a second drive.

Heat in a Medical Computer System is a Terrible Component Killer

Since EMR systems receive constant software updates, it’s important to get powerful hardware (intel i7s) and strong video capability to run and view the demanding software. However, pulling a consumer-grade PC off the shelf to run as a mobile EMR system won’t operate well. Let’s say a new computer runs an intel Coffee Lake i7 8700k with 32 gigabytes of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 1090. Great! This system is capable of running the latest software at blazing speeds. However, what’s not addressed is the power of the CPU and components. The CPU on a consumer-grade processor pulls more power, which means more heat. Without a way to dissipate heat, the processor and surrounding components can easily overheat and melt. Fans are necessary for running components at high wattage, but they are also thought of as points of failure. If a fan fails, the computer in question fails—that’s it. That’s specifically why many healthcare facilities choose to deploy fanless medical computers  which run components at much lower power ratings, usually 35 watts for the processor alone. Less power means less heat, which means higher longevity and no fans. No fans mean no dust, which means even higher longevity for computer components and less risk for patient health.

A Medical Computer System Uses Higher-Grade Components

The MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) is considered a defining standard for hardware reliability with two “branching” standards—the Department of Defense standard and the Bellcore/Telcordia Predictive Method, the former of the two being more recognized. Consumer-grade computers by some reports have a 2-year MTBF, and it’s likely that the lifespan of such a computer may be cut short if used in a demanding environment like a hospital. If a computer needs to operate 24/7, it’s far too demanding for a consumer-grade computer to handle. Constant heat, ceaseless running fans, and excessive power draw (adding expenses to an already skyrocketing energy bill for a hospital) will guarantee a shorter lifespan than a medical computer system which is built for 24/7 operation. This lower MTBF is also on a component-based level; consumer PC manufacturers don’t use high grade discrete components (diodes, resistors, transistors, etc.) that meet the reliability standard found in medical computer systems. The lifespans for medical computer systems on the market today span typically 3-5 years.

Heat, dust, power, lower-grade components with moving parts, and other factors clearly all point to less reliability and lower longevity when using a consumer grade computer as a medical computer system. Dust is a huge internal component hazard, so it’s best to have a sealed system that doesn’t ingest it. Heat is another gigantic factor in system longevity, so keeping components operating at lower wattage ratings will increase their longevity—also removing the need for fans. Medical computers with higher-quality, military-grade components will always outlast consumer-grade computers on average, ensuring medical professionals can get the job done while avoiding computer hazards to the patient.