It can be difficult for an IT department in any industry to convince a CFO to write a bigger check for computer hardware. The fact remains that medical grade computers are going to be more expensive than a commercial grade computer. But it is also important to understand that IT hardware is, at a minimum, a 5-year investment. So when you are planning your IT budget, you need to look at it from a long-term view rather than a short-term expense.
In this blog, we are going to provide you with some ammunition to take with you to your next budget meeting to help you understand the true ROI of medical grade computers.
Understanding MTBF: All Computers are Not Created Equally
MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failure, is a measure of how long a piece of equipment will typically last. A desktop computer has a lifespan of 3-5 years in a “typical” office environment. A hospital is anything but typical, however. In an office, a computer might be running for 8-10 hours at a time 5 days per week, before being shut down for the rest of the day. A hospital is 24/7, 365. That’s like driving your car home from work, then parking it on a giant treadmill, and leaving it in gear overnight while you sleep. The engine is going to wear down a lot quicker in that scenario. When you consider a 24/7 work cycle, that 3-5 year estimate ends up being closer to 1-2 years before you need to replace your hardware.
A fanless medical computer is made with industrial grade components that are specifically designed for 24/7 use. And because of the fanless design, there are fewer moving parts, meaning fewer points of failure. Keeping out dust is another way to extend the life of a computer. Eliminating the fan goes a long way towards accomplishing that, but an IP65 rating is also important. IP65 is an international standard that measures a devices protection against dust and water intrusion. Not only does this keep out dust, but considering how often hospital equipment needs to be cleaned and disinfected, keeping out liquids will also extend the life of your computer.
Spending half as much on a commercial grade computer today really isn’t a cost savings if you have to replace those computers 2 or 3 times over the course of 5 years instead of simply investing in a medical grade computer that won’t need to be replaced.
Eliminating 3rd Party Dongles
Hospitals and healthcare facilities have needs that go far beyond processing power and memory. HIPAA and other regulations are a constant concern for HIT managers. Two-factor authentication is quickly becoming the standard in hospitals across the country, and some states require it by law. If you invest in commercial grade computers, that means 3rd party attachments. You can find RFID and fingerprint readers for fairly cheap, but they may not be Imprivata certified – which is the standard two-factor authentication software. They also are easy to lose and break, and they take up valuable port space that could be used to integrate the computer with other devices.
Look for medical computers that have integrated RFID and biometric readers built in. More importantly, look for medical computers that are Imprivata certified. This will help you stay compliant with HIPAA data privacy concerns. It also completely eliminates the need to invest in 3rd part attachments. That might mean removing hundreds of devices out of circulation that would otherwise fall under the purview of your IT team to maintain, saving a lot of time and money.
Overcoming Break/Fix IT
In a lot of organizations, IT is viewed as a necessary evil. You need to keep hardware and software up and running to ensure productivity, but the department itself is rarely able to engage in revenue-generating activities. This is because there are literally hundreds of devices that IT is responsible to manage and maintain, and HIT staff is typically inundated with maintenance requests.
As we mentioned above, medical grade computers can eliminate the break/fix mentality that organizations place on IT departments. More reliable computers with industrial grade components are one piece of the puzzle. Eliminating 3rd party attachments is another. When you have a computer that simply works and maintains a long lifespan, it will free up a lot of time for your IT team to work on other projects that actually generate revenue.
Imagine having an IT team that has the time to speak with different departments to understand their challenges, and then devise systems designed specifically to improve those processes. Or having a team that can spend time aggregating data from different silos of information into actionable intel. You might even want to create patient portals or other ways of communicating with patients to improve outcomes. All of these activities can improve efficiency, grow the bottom line, and improve patient care. But they take time to implement. If your IT team isn’t constantly backlogged with maintenance requests, they have the time to take on these types of projects.
Reduce Expenditure on Medical Carts
Medical Carts, or workstations on wheels, are a staple in hospitals. Nurses and doctors rely on them to perform rounds and enter patient information in EMR software. Traditionally, a battery powered cart would power the computer, which allowed healthcare practitioners to go room to room with a consistent power supply. Powered carts are extremely expensive, however. Often times as much as 5x as expensive as a non-powered cart.
Medical cart computers powered by hot-swap batteries eliminate the need for a powered cart. Because the computer runs on its own battery power, and batteries can be swapped out on the fly with fresh ones, hospitals can invest in a less expensive alternative without sacrificing any functionality. In fact, even though a medical cart computer is more expensive than a thin client PC, when paired with a non-powered cart the savings can reach as much as 40% in initial savings. That doesn’t take into account additional maintenance costs associated with keeping a powered cart operational.
When it comes to IT hardware, any investment needs to be assessed over the long term. When analyzing total costs over a five year period it becomes clear that the ROI is better when investing in medical grade computers. For more information, or if you have any questions you can contact Cybernet here.