Tag Archives: medical tablets

Houston Fire Dept.’s Mobile Innovations and Telehealth In Emergency Care

From Feb. 19 to 23, 2017, Orlando’s County Convention Center (OCCC) hosted this year’s largest health IT conference and exhibition, HIMSS17. Cybernet traditionally attended, and we have a lot of news and impressions to share. With 7 million square feet, OCCC is one of the country’s largest convention centers, so there was a lot of ground to cover.

Of particular interest was “Mobile Innovations and Telehealth in Emergency Care” session by Professor James Langabeer, Ph.D., M.B.A. The session focused on how Emergency Telehealth and Navigation program (ETHAN), in conjunction with mobile medical tablets, is helping the City of Houston Fire Department be more efficient in responding to medical emergencies, especially when serving low acuity patients.

ETHAN

ETHAN, funded by Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment, launched in 2015 based on the belief that there must be a more efficient solution to provide care to non-emergent patients. By now, ETHAN has served nearly 9,000 patients, which is approximately 5% of all emergency calls in the city.

The challenge that prompted the City of Houston Fire Department (HFD) to seek better solutions is that of an increasing Emergency Department overload. Long waiting lines in EDs are growing, as increased population is finding it easier to dial 911 from their smartphones.

With 600,000 911 calls and 400 EMS transports per day, HFD is stretched beyond its capacity. If an average person used to call 911 once or twice in a lifetime, the current population has drastically increased the level of 911 engagement. Densely populated cities can not keep up with the number of calls. Prof. Langabeer notes how educational programs that aim to increase population awareness on when to use 911 always end up increasing the number of 911 calls instead of reducing them. In Houston, the number of fear-related, low acuity visits to ED is 20%-50% of all 911 calls.

Hence, HFD ambulances respond to a large number of low acuity situations that do not require medical equipment or urgent medical attention. It is these low acuity visits that call for ETHAN activation.

How It Works

Ambulance and firefighter teams are equipped with mobile tablets running ETHAN program developed by CISCO. It is a commercially available solution customized specifically for the HFD needs. The requirement was to make the solution HIPAA compliant, encrypted, with the capability to record interactions, and guarantee a reliable connection between the ETHAN crew and the remote physician, who might be on the move.

If the crew, upon arrival, decide that the patient may not require an ED visit, they activate ETHAN and initiate a video call with a remote physician using a medical tablet.

The remote emergency physician interviews the patient as if he/she were at the bedside, and, based on vitals, history, and assessment of the medic on site, may offer several options:

  • The ambulance transport to ED.
  • Referral to an ED with a prepaid taxi.
  • Clinic referral with taxi transport.
  • Referral to the primary care provider or home care.

 

The goals of ETHAN are to:

  • Reduce the number of ambulance ED transports for low-acuity cases that do not require urgent medical attention
  • Improve unit availability & total turnaround times
  • Improve focus on true emergencies
  • Connect patients with a medical home
  • Improve care quality, reduce costs

 

There are some situations, in which people are over-utilizing 911, says Prof. Langabeer. Patients may be new to the city and do not have a primary care provider yet, or they may have chronic conditions and bounce from ER to ER whereas what they need is an appointment with their primary care provider, and tests, or they just need a medication refill.

If a remote physician decides the case is low acuity, he/she can recommend the patient be redirected to the clinic right away. The physician even schedules an appointment the same day or the next day. The taxi service is prepaid by the HFD. The cost savings are significant, as the taxi fare is several times cheaper than the ambulance transportation.

One of the special features of the program is the follow-up calls. The multiple callers get follow-ups that aim to engage them with other programs (primary care, home care) to reduce the number of non-emergent repeat callers.

Patient Disposition

The results in changing patient disposition are promising. Of a total 8,561 ETHAN patients:

  • 65% chose to go to a hospital ED with a taxi instead of an ambulance.
  • 7% chose the clinic referral with a taxi.
  • 6% chose the referral to PCP or home care.
  • 16% chose ambulance transport to ED.

 

Results summary:

  • ETHAN unit productivity (39 minutes per visit on average) is higher than that of the traditional EMS units (83 minutes per visit on average) by 44 minutes.
  • The cost of ETHAN unit visit is $167 per patient, while that of the traditional EMS unit is $270/patient.
  • Disposition to ED by ambulance is 67% in ETHAN patients, and 74% in traditional EMS units patients.
  • ETHAN’s ROI is $928,000/year; $2,468/ED visit averted.
  • At the same time, patient satisfaction is even for both ETHAN and traditional EMS patients.

 

As we can see, the crew productivity is doubled with ETHAN assistance, while cost savings in averted ED visits and reduced ambulance use are significant.

Challenges

At the same time, there are a few roadblocks that the program encounters:

  • Insufficient budget.
  • Policy and reimbursement issues.
  • Certain resistance from the healthcare community as providers get fewer ED visits that are expensive and more primary care visits that are cheaper (but more relevant).
  • Patient reluctance and lack of awareness, as most patients insist on ED visits and tend to feel their needs are not addressed when offered alternatives.
  • Staff training on the use of telehealth technology and the criteria that call to ETHAN activation.

 

“If this was your family member, would you be comfortable with sending them somewhere other than the emergency room?” said Prof. Langabeer, when asked about the criteria units rely on to activate ETHAN.

Revolutionizing Healthcare, One Step At A Time

ETHAN is the first of its kind in telehealth and the use of medical tablets, and it revolutionized Houston healthcare by enabling an instant and remote partnership between responders and caregivers. It transformed how the city handles emergency calls from patient, responder and health care perspectives by boosting turnaround time, and minimizing the number of unnecessary ED visits. The cost efficiency is apparent at the payer level, as the patients get expert advice on alternatives that are more reasonable and affordable than an ED ride with an ambulance.

The next step for the program is to expand telehealth into EMS and further incorporate mobile technology solutions. Projects such as ETHAN call for deployment of HIPAA-compliant, EHR-ready medical tablets with antimicrobial housing to ensure patient and staff protection from nosocomial infections. There is a need for hot-swap battery technology to ensure full-shift uptime, and RFID Imprivata SSO with integrated biometric scanner to enable advanced authentication and data protection.

HIMSS17 Takeaways on Cybersecurity, Interoperability & Telehealth

2017 HIMSS conference has come to an end. It was an overwhelming event – more than forty-five thousand attendees, 1,200+ exhibiting companies, 300 sessions on the 7 million square feet of Orlando’s County Convention Center. With so many topics and sessions, it is easy to feel like you have missed something. The Cybernet team summarizes its key HIMSS17 takeaways.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity was on everyone’s mind. In fact, it was one of the dominant topics this year, and it will continue to be dominant for years to come because the healthcare system continues to create an ever-growing digital footprint, amassing petabytes of data collected through a growing army of connected medical devices. At the same time, many providers have a vague understanding of which devices on their networks are smart and have the capability to siphon data when compromised.

Many HIMSS17 cybersecurity sessions pointed a finger on poorly controlled and managed IoT.

Data Security: Threat Assessment in the Ransomware Era cites a ForeScout survey of IT professionals, of which only 30% are confident they know what IoT “things” are on their network, and only 44% have a security policy for IoT. Those who thought they had no IoT devices on their networks actually had at least eight types of IoT devices. 88% of all ransomware attacks in 2016 hit healthcare, which is telling. All the while the effects are devastating – employees are locked out, EHR and prescriptions are down, patient appointments are canceled. Not to mention the administrative fines and liabilities.

In the light of propagating cyber attacks on healthcare and their significant cost on providers, medical device manufacturers are in the spotlight. Evolving State of Medical Device Cybersecurity featured Seth Carmody, Ph.D., the Cyber Security Program Manager at the FDA. Shared responsibility and the need for a collaborative approach to information sharing and risk assessment continue being the urgent needs.

Of note was a suggestion the medical devices should undergo a pre-market cybersecurity testing and certification. FDA’s Post Market Cybersecurity Guidance remained largely unchanged but the 30-day remediation time-frame has been expanded to 60 days, and the clarifications on terminology, participation with ISAOs and privacy and confidentiality harms were given.

Of practical use were key medical device cybersecurity myth busters:

  • Manufacturers can push software updates made to strengthen cybersecurity without FDA’s “re-certification,” and
  • Cybersecurity of medical devices is required by law; it is not an optional, voluntary feature.

 

Breaches and Ransomware? How Does Your Security Compare featured gloomy statistics and a useful scale for the organizations to compare their security strategies to those of their peers. Healthcare has the highest cost per capita of the data breach, $355. The Baseline security strategies focus on compliance, device encryption, mobile device management and prevention of data loss along with a few basic elements such as firewall, email and web gateway, and backups. Enhanced security adds device control, pen testing, SSD encrypted, endpoint data loss prevention, remote lock and wipe, multi-factor authentication with a timeout, remote administration, and virtualization. The Advanced security includes the above and adds digital forensics, multi-factor authentication with walk-away lock, tokenization, activity monitoring, and threat intelligence among others. Any IT professional responsible for the security of a healthcare organization should give the benchmark scale a good read.

HIMSS17 cybersecurity coverage included the CHIME/HIMSS CIO Forum keynote with Kevin Mitnick. The cybersecurity consultant to the FBI and Fortune 500 companies made a few live demos of how easy it is to compromise critical files and systems. Mitnick’s demos involved average technical skills and simple social engineering techniques exploiting the human error.

Key takeaway for providers – compliance is not enough. Good security encompasses a lot more than compliance, and minimizing the risks translates into reduced costs and downtime, and increased patient trust.

Key takeaway for manufacturers – with the growth of mobility and an increased volume of electronic health data, the potential of a data breach is escalating. Building cybersecurity into every HIT solution is critical in the value-based system. The medical devices’ pre-market cybersecurity testing/certification is a near-future possibility.

Interoperability

Transformation is in the process, but don’t get too comfortable – was the leitmotif of HIMSS17 interoperability sessions. The industry united around the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. Health IT vendors are increasingly implementing FHIR-based interfaces into their solutions to streamline cross-platform information exchange that would require minimum effort on the user’s part.

HIMSS17 Interoperability Showcase featured real-world examples of how FHIR allows different HIT solutions to work together and communicate seamlessly.

Key takeaways: keep it simple. Presenting the wealth of health information in a consolidated view can hamper understanding. Limit the ways you present data. When conveying meaning through charts, make it simple and consistent rather than good-looking. “More is less” approach enhances understanding and increases the chances of physicians accounting for the data in decision-making.

Other interoperability sessions provided a similar conclusion: the data is growing, but presenting the end user with a reduced view helps visualize the information and tell a coherent story of what is happening, especially within large populations.

At the same time, EHR in the context of interoperability continues to be the cause of anxiety. Making EHRs more user-friendly and interoperable is an unmet necessity. The interoperability across EHRs and other applications will take longer than expected, and some providers are creating in-house solutions to address this issue.

Overcome Challenges/Obstacles to Achieving Interoperability stresses the health record is so fragmented the strain on physicians is immense, but barriers arise since federated model membership is voluntary. There is a need for a single place for the health record. It can be a single repository, Perpetual Health Record, a patient’s intelligent portal that would organize, prepare, display, self-correct, reconcile and archive data, and evaluate information in context, store and represent it based on relevance. All providers must engage and integrate the exchange capabilities from the ground up in their products. The industry needs a standard look and feel, and conventional algorithms of identifying relevant and useful data.

Breaking HIE Barriers underlines the need for the information exchange to be easy and ubiquitous. Providers and patients expect the data to be useful, not just accessible. For interoperability to demonstrate its value, it must show obvious benefits so that users would be willing to pay for it. So, interoperability and information exchange should be about more than health information.

Usability

Medical staff, especially primary care doctors, are overburdened with EMRs lacking in usability, clinical and clerical paperwork, general data overload and value-based care requirements. Ease of use was one of the main themes of many interoperability sessions.

Clinician burnout is a great concern for providers. Semantic Data Analysis for Interoperability and Managing a Legacy Team in an EHR Transition both articulate the same need to facilitate the transition to new technology easier on the staff. Choosing the right vendor is one of the key aspects of a successful upgrade and employee retention.

Key takeaways: providers need HIT solutions that are easier to use for the staff, not just the patients. Labor is nearly half of the healthcare system costs, and HIT must make it more efficient and hassle-free.

Telehealth, Mobile, and Cloud

HIMSS17 telehealth was one of the most exciting themes due to the real-world success stories with the visible progress. Reducing cost of care, providing care in rural areas under physician shortages, reducing readmissions through remote physician follow-ups – telehealth solutions are proving their worth.

Removing Barriers from Migrating to the Hybrid Cloud highlighted how the costs of expanding on-premise storage are unsustainable with predicted 25,000 petabytes of digital medical data by 2020. 77% of industry actors are seeking partners to help them maintain a high infrastructure reliability, and the cloud is the solution. At the moment, many cloud adopters run payroll, HR, EHR, email, and EMR in the cloud. More providers are planning to move disaster recovery, PACS, ERP, office data analytics, radiology and coding to the cloud.

Mobile Innovation and Telehealth in Emergency Care featured a success story of the Houston Fire Department’s mobile solution ETHAN in combination with medical tablets. The outcomes – the reduced number of low-acuity repeat callers and the increased efficiency of ambulance teams. The first was attained through follow-up calls, the second through remote physicians who advised low-acuity patients on alternatives to the ambulance transport to the emergency room.

Telehealth solutions are evolving to include record keeping, billing, secure messaging, or the voice-managed A.I. assistants.

An important point was the customer experience. Consumerization of HIT is changing the patients’ role from being a passive, reactive care recipient to an active manager of their health.

The Perfecting the Mobile Solution session by Palmetto Health made a strong point of how choosing the right EMR-ready equipment is key to success. Key takeaways: there is no one-size-fits-all solution in screen size, cart size or type, or MDM. Analyzing every stakeholder’s needs and addressing them with a proper configuration with flexible, modular approach can be successful within the framework of an all-in-one mobile solution.

Among the top barriers to mobility are budget constraints, BYOD, wireless network support, security concerns, compatibility, learning curve and device form factor choice. The form factor and OS are deal-breakers capable of solving all other concerns. Windows 10 medical tablet with a digitizer stylus beat all the other mobile solutions in the compatibility, cost, and productivity.

hims17

“For every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly two additional hours is spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day,” according to Annals of Internal Medicine. HIT productivity paradox saw EHR initially reduce staff productivity by 25-33%. The medical tablets’ effect is the opposite, resulting in faster triage and note completion, reduced wait times, the ability to document anywhere and a smaller technology footprint.

Palmetto Health reported numerous benefits of deploying their mobile solution: provider satisfaction, ease of use, less time documenting after work, improved access to patient records, ability to share data with patients at the bedside, improved security with less printing/ secure network/ fingerprint access, improved patient education and communication, reduced transcription costs, improved workflow, and fewer desktops.

Key takeaways: large screen, extended battery life, Dragon dictation support and corporate shared devices (vs. BYOD) are preferable.

Conclusion

Among other HIMSS17 dominant themes was uncertainty regarding new and old regulations, but overall the conference felt like a summary of the industry’s achievements, and the goals that lay ahead – innovation, consumerization, and improved ease of use.

Cybernet offers an extensive line of medical grade computers and tablets.

Medical Tablets: Complying with HIPAA

Healthcare providers increasingly use clinical applications such as EHR, clinical decision support systems, order entry systems, radiology, laboratory and other systems. Health IT makes the medical workforce more agile, mobile and productive. Mobile devices let physicians check patient records on the go, in any location. Nonetheless, the rise of mobile technology increases the risk of data breaches. HIPAA aims to protect ePHI while still allowing hospitals to adopt new technologies & improve their efficiency and care quality.

The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), 1996, consists of HIPAA Privacy Rule & the HIPAA Security Rule. The former establishes national standards for the protection of individually identifiable health information; the latter – security standards for protecting individually identifiable health information held or transferred in electronic form. The Security Rule dwells on the technical and non-technical safeguards covered entities must implement to secure patients’ electronic protected health information (e-PHI).

Understanding HIPAA

The HIPAA Security Rule covers health plans, health care clearinghouses and health care providers that create, receive, store or transmit e-PHI, as well as their business associates. Read the Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule [PDF].

Under HIPAA, covered entities must:

  • Ensure confidentiality, integrity & availability of e-PHI.
  • Identify threats to e-PHI and protect against them.
  • Protect e-PHI against disclosures or impermissible uses.
  • Ensure HIPAA compliance by the workforce.

The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to perform a risk assessment to determine reasonable security measures for a particular organization. Risk assessment includes evaluation of the likelihood of a data breach, implementation of appropriate security measures, documentation of security measures, & rationalization of their choice, and continuous protection of e-PHI.

Safeguards

On the administrative, physical and technical levels, HIPAA requires for the organizations to implement certain safeguards.

Administrative

  • Security management process – identify & analyze risks to e-PHI, implement security measures for protection.
  • Appointing a security official overseeing HIPAA compliance.
  • Information access management – limit uses and disclosures of e-PHI, granting access to data only when appropriate, to authorized personnel only.
  • Providing the medical staff with data protection training, ensuring policy compliance by the workforce.

Physical

  • Limit physical access to the facility for unauthorized individuals, yet ensure authorized access is allowed.
  • Implement device security procedures, specify proper use of devices and access to them, have policies regarding device transfer, disposal or re-use.

Technical

Health care providers must implement:

  • Access control to e-PHI for authorized personnel only.
  • Audit controls of hardware, software and data access and use procedures.
  • Integrity controls to ensure e-PHI is not destroyed or altered improperly.
  • Transmission security measures that guard against unauthorized access to e-PHI in transit.

Features of Medical Tablets That Ensure HIPAA Compliance

So, when we talk about the features of the medical tablets that ensure HIPAA compliance, we are primarily concerned with the Technical Safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule provisions.

Encryption

The HIPAA Security Series Guidelines require covered entities to “consider the use of encryption” for e-PHI in transit. Encryption for data at rest is not mandatory, but its implementation depends on the risk assessment.

End to end encryption ensures the data in transit is protected against data breaches and man-in-the-middle attacks, according to HIPAA Journal. Technology based on the end to end encryption helps providers avoid HIPAA violations.

HIPAA-compliant medical tablets are Windows or Linux-based, which enables the support of full disk encryption for data at rest, & implementation of end to end encryption programs for data in transit. Furthermore, Windows medical tablets have USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports and can encrypt data on external storage devices just like your normal desktop computers would.

One of the glaring security holes in consumer grade mobile devices is text messaging and consumer chat apps medical staff use to communicate with patients and colleagues. e-PHI details sent in a text message is a direct violation of HIPAA Security Rule. Skype, WhatsApp or Hangouts lack necessary protections for a secure data transfer, despite claims of encryption. Medical professionals must implement secure communication programs, with the end to end encryption and preferably from trusted, zero-knowledge providers.

Data Access

HIPAA requires the implementation of technical policies and procedures that allow access to PHI to authorized staff only. Medical tablets have access control mechanisms that enable advanced user authentication. Moreover, they make it easy to use, because end users tend to bypass any technical procedures they deem as difficult, time-consuming, or hampering their productivity in any other way.

Multi-factor authentication in medical tablets is ensured with RFID Imprivata Single Sign-On, biometric scanner, Smart Card or CAC reader, and Kensington lock. Multi-layered access controls reduce the risk of unauthorized data access. Medical staff can safely leave the device in hospital’s public places, such as corridors or patient rooms, and rest assured the confidential data is locked.

Data Integrity

According to HIPAA, any e-PHI data stored on a mobile device (or transmitted with its help) must be protected against unlawful tampering or destruction. Mobile devices used to store or transmit e-PHI in healthcare must have features that allow them to be audited for access to e-PHI, including attempted access instances, and other activity that could potentially affect data security.

Medical tablets can be configured to enable remote device management to give the IT admins full control over the data stored and transmitted from it. IT admins can push system and software updates and patches remotely, or troubleshoot issues without having physical access to the device. They can set up the device so that the complete log of data access and failed login attempts be documented for revision. They can wipe the device remotely, should it be lost or stolen. They can monitor network activity and spot suspiciously large volumes in upload or download to, again, suspicious servers.

IT admins can block or disable certain OS features, whitelist and blacklist programs, to protect the confidentiality of e-PHI from the inadvertent exposure by the end users. For example, disabling automatic connection to any available Wi-Fi network protects devices from connecting to insecure public networks.

From ad-block browser extensions to firewalls and sandboxing, Windows supports the full list of security measures an IT admin can deploy on a device. With Windows 10, the security features have advanced even further.

Windows makes the use of password managers easy since most enterprise programs are developed for Win OS. Also, administrators can disable access to app store, so that users cannot download and install unauthorized applications, or games. Alternatively, blacklist every app but a list of authorized applications from accessing the Internet.

Medical tablets ensure admins have necessary means of scanning them for malware and other malicious code, install antivirus, perform regular and random scans. When an employee is left or fired, admins can safely terminate access to PHI.

How to Implement Patient Infotainment Using Bedside Computers or Tablets

The value-based healthcare system becomes more competitive than ever, and hospitals need to focus on the patient experience as one of the main contributing factors to how patients evaluate their stay. As Medicare reimbursement now directly depends on patient satisfaction, hospitals focus on boosting their Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems score, HCAHPS. It is this pursuit of the HCAHPS score that urges medical facilities to adopt a patient-centric approach. The patient infotainment and engagement systems have proven to be effective in increasing patient satisfaction, HCAHPS scores, and building loyalty.

When implemented efficiently, patient infotainment systems serve multiple purposes, for both patients and medical professionals. Here is a brief list of things to consider before you choose the medical bedside computers or medical tablets for your patient infotainment systems.

Key Considerations

Goals.

Determine what your goals you can achieve by deploying an All-in-One patient entertainment point-of-care system:

  1. increase patient satisfaction
  2. increase clinician productivity
  3. use a single device for multiple purposes
  4. replace multiple pieces of equipment with a single computer or tablet

Potential for hardware upgrades.

Define what upgrades for the medical computers, on the software and the hardware level, you might need to request from the provider. Inquire whether they can provide the corresponding support.

Infrastructure capacity.

Define what upgrade requirements the infotainment system imposes on your existing infrastructure and network. New cabling, new furniture, more bandwidth, etc. Can you minimize the footprint?

Integration.

Decide whether to integrate the bedside medical computers with your clinical applications. The benefits of integrating are numerous – your staff is more productive, the patient tracking is more streamlined, with fewer errors, the complete record of all episodes of care, etc. If you deploy a medical grade computer at the patient bedside, why not harness its full potential?

Identify the most valuable features/apps a patient infotainment system can offer to:

  1. Your Patients
  • Communication – browser, chat, email, teleconferencing, quick nurse call button, a way to contact the doctor, front-facing webcam.
  • Entertainment – patients should be able to order meals, access their subscription services like Netflix, and have access to YouTube, games, music, radio, news.
  • Productivity – calendar, personal email, notes, MS Office, easy way to access personal health record, secure way to process online financial transactions, complete online forms, control the lights, room temperature, window covers, bed. Consider installing a translation app and a voice recognition software for patients with limited physical ability to control the computer with voice commands.
  • Education – interactive presentations, educational games that increase patient awareness on their condition, symptoms, medication, dietary and lifestyle recommendations
  1. Your Staff
  • EMR for instant access and input if all episodes of care, input patient vitals.
  • Order tests, share test results.
  • View diagnostic images.
  • Use the electronic prescribing system, HELP, PACS and CPOE.
  • RFID reader.
  • Barcode scanner.
  • CAC or SmartCard reader.
  • Biometric scanner.
  • Secure access to sensitive information.

TCO.

Include several key departments in the decision-making process. Your financial department is likely to favor a known brand and a low purchase price. However, task them with calculating a Total Cost of Ownership of your purchase, taking into account device’s lifespan, ruggedness, failure rates, transmission of nosocomial infections, regulatory compliance. Your legal department will help you make the right choice to remain complaint with the FDA, HIPAA, HITECH and many other regulations that impose specific hardware requirements in patient safety, nosocomial infections, data security, and privacy. Your IT department will provide an even more valuable insight into the TCO of your potential acquisition. They will assess the deployment and maintenance expenses, compatibility with your enterprise software and medical equipment, disk imaging and customization possibilities, and explain how overall failure rates translate into either downtime/expenses or reliability/benefits.

Hardware.

Depending on your requirements and budget, you can customize the build of your infotainment system, be it a medical computer or tablet.

  • Do you intend to mount it on a wall, desktop, moving arm – VESA mounting is a welcome feature.
  • Wired or wireless – the latter is more ergonomic.
  • Does it need serial ports to support legacy equipment?
  • What operating system, RAM, processor, video card, storage do you need?
  • Do you need sandboxing capability?
  • Large-screen high-resolution medical computer or compact medical grade tablet?
  • Easy-to-use touchscreen is ergonomic as opposed to a solution that required external keyboard and mouse.

Compliance.

Unlike consumer TVs and computers, bedside infotainment devices must meet medical-grade standards of patient safety and durability. An antimicrobial coating prevents the spread of pathogens, while a sturdy, waterproof IP65 casing allows for disinfection with liquid chemicals. Medical grade computer or tablet supports your infection control objectives.
MIL-STD certified components ensure compliance with safety standards and prevent harm to patients.  For post-operation infection control, consider a fanless design that prevents germ circulation and is near-silent.

Customizations, warranties.

When selecting a provider, consider manufacturer vs vendor, as the former is more flexible in providing necessary customizations (include legacy ports, embedded scanners/readers, free disk imaging, more RAM, storage, etc.) and offer extended warranties and out of warranty service.

Benefits

  • Patient bedside computers serve dual purposes and cater to the patients and the doctors.
  • All-in-One medical computers or medical grade tablets used as patient infotainment systems combine multiple tools in a single build – computer, TV, telephone, nurse call button, remote control for TV,  curtains, beds, lights, communication terminal.
  • Easy mounting with standard VESA holes enables an ergonomic integration into the existing design of the patient rooms without any critical system upgrades or remodeling.
  • Models with hot-swap batteries or internal backup UPS are ergonomic and eliminate the extra wire clutter, which is unwelcome in patient rooms.
  • AIO medical grade computers or medical grade tablets come integrated with a plethora of peripherals – barcode reader, RFID scanner, biometric reader, CAC, Smart Card reader. This enables secure user authentication, reliable data protection and enables integration and control of IoT devices.
  • Medical grade computers and tablets have an antimicrobial coating and withstand disinfection with chemical solutions, so help prevent nosocomial infections at the point of care.

Progress Enabler

Bedside infotainment systems offer a host of education, entertainment, communication, engagement options for patients in an interactive, customized manner. Medical point-of-care computers easily combine bedside entertainment systems with clinical applications, becoming an indispensable tool for clinicians, nurses and other caregivers. Patient infotainment/engagement improves patient satisfaction, patient safety, doctor productivity, and quality outcomes.

As hospitals recognize the positive effect of infotainment on patient satisfaction, and bedside medical AIOs for clinician productivity, these versatile patient-doctor systems become the new norm.

Creating A Streamlined System Of Work & Communication Across A Variety Of Devices

A streamlined and efficient communication provides consistently high levels of performance of the modern, mobile workforce working in the field, on the go, on the manufacturing floor, or from home. In order to guarantee a streamlined system of work and communication within an organization, your employees must be on the same page. The lack of coherence and data synchronization may affect their efficiency. Coordinated actions are only possible through applications that centralize data and distribute it across a large variety of corporate mobile and stationary devices. Organizations across industries use efficient synergies of the mobile and rugged IT solutions to streamline their communication and workflow.

Benefits

  1. Open communicative environment. When employees and managers obtain a greater visibility into the company’s strategy, they understand how their individual goals fit into it. This understanding motivates and energizes employees to be more productive.
  2. Connect teams, enhance collaboration. Collaboration and collective brainstorms that engage remote teams to accelerate teamwork. Leaders timely communicate business strategies, teams easily seek out expert opinion inside the organization, no unit is cut out from the company’s environment, irrespective of the location.
  3. Optimize employee schedules. Minimize canceled jobs, lost time and missed opportunities by bringing the right people at the right time on any project.
  4. Employee engagement. People love gadgets, and with intuitive, easy-to-handle gadgets your employees will complete their reporting on the go. With online performance evaluation tools, managers can assess employee skills, identify whether more training is needed, or if certain employees would be more productive in a different department.
  5. Monitor business continuity, productivity. Enterprise productivity software solutions enable managers to track progress at every stage, engage immediate reinforcement, necessary coaching, or support to keep the deadlines on track.
  6. Monitor employee progress. Timely communication enables managers to track progress, alert employees to potential shortcomings, motivate, reward and encourage them.
  7. Analyze performance. Advanced reporting, operations analysis, predictive diagnostics help companies gain a deep understanding of inner processes, market trends, customer preferences, planning and operational flaws. Performance metrics, analytical and forecast reports help managers in redesigning deficient strategies. The growing trend in harnessing the Big Data is contributing immensely to the way companies make their forecasts.
  8. Boost cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is often viewed as a burden, but proactive industries are seeing it as a business enabler. Modern technologies enable a great level of data security through the adoption of the cloud solutions, full disk encryption, end-to-end data encryption, easy-to-use advanced user authentication with a biometric reader, CAC, smart card or RFID readers, user access controls, remote wiping.

How Streamlined Communication Improves Workflow

Emergency Responders

  • Video conferencing with first responders in the field.
  • Timely teams coordination.
  • Secure patient data transmission in real time.
  • Timely reinforcement dispatch.
  • Instant status reports, evidence collecting.
  • Secure and constant access to department network.

These and many other benefits stem from the use of rugged, medical-grade tablets running EHR, messengers, and other emergency back-end enterprise solutions.

Health Care

  • Persistent connection to the department network.
  • Telehealth, videoconferencing.
  • Decreased: paperwork, duplicate tests, errors.
  • Efficient medication dispensing, prescription management.

The use of EHR, Help, task management system, secure communication apps by doctors and nurses, RFID and barcode scanners in asset management and tracking streamline hospitals workflow and eliminates tedious manual data input.

Transportation, Pickup, and Delivery

  • Increased delivery speed with route optimization.
  • Mobile devices with RFID, barcode scanners for fast package scanning, deliveries recording, signature capturing to ensure proof of delivery.
  • Live updates on route changes, traffic situation, new delivery destinations.
  • Automated processing of shipment data to speed delivery.

Education

  • Productivity and teaching tools available on desktops as much as on tablets are effective tools for managing students and enhancing the learning process.
  • Replacing paper with technology for tests and textbooks.
  • Extensive planning programs, note taking, student engagement software.
  • Faster results processing and scoring.
  • Streamlined collaboration on assignments with to-do and teamwork apps.

Asset Management Across A Variety of Industries

  • Track and secure equipment on the move.
  • Monitor activities of high-value assets.
  • Improve inventory accuracy.
  • Reduce inventory tracking time and cost of service.
  • Optimize maintenance schedules.
  • Manage maintenance costs through time and cost tracking apps.
  • Reduce downtime.
  • Increase technician productivity.

To streamline the enterprise-wide communication, companies need to account for the following factors:

  1. Device’s ruggedness
    The majority of U.S. office workforce relies on technology for productivity, and field workforce is quickly catching up with the adoption of rugged tablets. Choosing the environment-appropriate form factor ensures your employees’ are connected at all times.
  2. IoT and legacy equipment compatibility
    To ensure your employees can access the data from relevant IoT devices and legacy equipment alike, ensure their desktop and mobile devices offer the compatibility options. Wired and wireless connectivity, legacy ports, HMI capabilities – better compatibility means more actionable data and processes that can be controlled remotely or automated.
  3. Application-device compatibility
    One of the key aspects of streamlined communication and a work in-sync is your desktop and mobile devices’ compatibility with your communication and productivity software. With the majority of desktops used across organizations being Windows-based, the mobile tablets running Windows provide the greatest compatibility levels as compared to other mobile platforms.
  4. Data security
    Increasing your employees’ access to corporate communication channels and data storage requires proper data protection and user authentication. So, accounting for the hardware-level capabilities for data protection (RFID, CAC, smart card, biometric readers, disk encryption) is necessary prior to the device purchase.
  5. Usability
    The usability affects whether your employees use their devices eagerly or only when pressed to do so. Devices must be easy to use and carry around. They can not be bulky, heavy, or require too much attention during use. Besides a compact form factor and mounting, transporting or carrying options, your devices must offer a familiar user interface to ensure minimal learning curve for the employees. Windows proves to be the optimum choice since its desktop and mobile versions offer the same user experience.
  6. Uptime
    The cloud has made it possible to sync and deliver data to employees in any location, but the remote employees don’t have access to the cloud when their devices are down. So, battery life is important. For desktop devices, internal backup battery guarantees your staff can save their work and shut down safely. Alternatively, Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability and hot-swappable batteries with a charging station ensure uptime during power outages. For rugged tablets, opt for solutions that offer extended battery life or hot-swappable batteries with a charging station.Another factor affecting uptime is devices’ failure rates. Organizations are seeing wisdom in deploying rugged tablets with low failure rates in harsh environments since downtime and replacement costs have ruled out consumer devices from the use in rugged environments.
  7. Remote access capability
    To streamline your operations, ensure data security and devices’ performance, your ITs must be able to access the corporate devices remotely, be it to manage user access, install software or OS updates, locate or wipe a lost or stolen device, or collect analytics.

The Importance Of Real-Time Communication Technology In The Event Of A Disaster

Healthcare facilities are complex ecosystems with hundreds of clinical and administrative processes. Hospitals also play a central role in disaster response, and technology revolutionizes how first responders organize, automate and streamline the workflow. Natural and manmade disasters of the past have taught us the reliable, durable and resilient means of communication are vital to the disaster response.

The crucial purpose of mobile technology in disaster response is data access and communication in two aspects. The first is the emergency response when a disaster affects the hospital premises and the facility has to keep functioning. The staff and patient coordination becomes vital in mitigating the damage and protecting lives. The second is the emergency response on the site of a natural or manmade disaster.

On-Site Disaster

Hospitals need to be prepared for on-site emergencies, and an increasing number of facilities are adopting mobile technology for uses beyond patient records and clinic research. Hospitals are using real-time communication tech to protect their staff, patients, and visitors before and during emergencies. Natural disasters and active shooter attacks aside, medical buildings can be hazardous due to the large quantities of biohazard and chemical substances they store. Hospitals adopt digital emergency response plans in sync with local firefighters and police. The healthcare facilities can make live updates on the property and population so that first responders have the floor plans, a list of hazardous substances, campus maps, the location of fire hydrants, etc. This information at the fingertips of medical staff, patients, and first responders results in a smarter, more effective emergency response.

Natural and Manmade Disasters Alerts

Mobile technology has become an indispensable tool of disaster alerts. With a dozen of apps from FEMA and Red Cross, to name a few, mobile devices get real-time alerts on the upcoming natural disasters and keep the first responders up-to-date with how the disaster evolves. This effectively rules out such situations when a natural disaster takes place and local hospitals remain unaware until the flow of patients floods their premises. Disaster alert systems keep the first responders in sync with the upcoming and evolving disasters, which allows for timely preparation. The medics know where the most affected regions are, and the possible type of casualties.

Telemedicine

During a disaster, effective communication is often the difference between life and death. Rugged tablets with increasingly sophisticated wireless connectivity and backup batteries, high-definition video and audio technology are revolutionizing emergency services.

Telepresence has become a reality, where a slew of mobile applications collectively known as telemedicine is dramatically transforming disaster response. TACTEL, the Tactical Telemedicine initiative, for example, has been designed for the first responders that support law enforcement during active shooter incidents with multiple casualties. Allowing the on-site EMTs and paramedics to connect directly to local and regional trauma centers, apps such as TACTEL provide live triage support and medical cooperation in a variety of scenarios. The program was tested in trauma surgeon/medic interaction for victims with head injury, extreme bleeding, and gunshot wounds. Real-time interaction between trauma surgeons and SWAT medics facilitates a streamlined patient stabilization.

Live Data Sync

Real-time data entry on-scene provides an unprecedented value to trauma centers. Surgeons acquire facts and details of casualties in real time, which facilitates preparations for patient arrival.

On-site data acquisition also streamlines patient identification, which provides relevant data about patient allergies and health conditions. Fast data access also helps bill the insurance providers and prevent legal incidents.

TCO, Integration Into The Existing Ecosystem

Healthcare facilities often face budget limitations when introducing new equipment, and TCO is one of the top concerns. Decision-makers should know the consumer tablets show drastic failure rates when used in healthcare. Popular non-rugged consumer devices (when used in healthcare or business) have a failure rate of 15.2%, and up to 40%. On the other hand, rugged medical tablets by Cybernet have an Overall Failure Rate of less than 2%.

How the new mobile tech gets integrated into the existing ecosystem of a facility is one of the constituents of the Total Cost of Ownership since it encompasses deployment, maintenance and compatibility with the slew of existing apps and equipment. Windows- or Linux-based tablets are perfect to incorporate into the complex medical ecosystem, where EMR software such as EPIC and other back-end applications (databases, image, and video viewing) require powerful hardware.

Disaster responders need mobile devices that adhere to the following requirements:

  • Ruggedness to withstand harsh environments common in disaster response situations. They can withstand drops, are dust and waterproof.
  • Uptime Reliability to ensure minimum downtime. Ideally, such medical tablets should come with hot-swappable batteries that allow for battery swap without powering down the device.
  • Reliable wired and wireless connectivity, which is critical in disaster response, with 3G and 4G LTE support,  GPS navigation, and Bluetooth and IP connectivity to support peripherals, including legacy.
  • Safe for near-patient use and in compliance with industry safety standards against electrocution, and radiation.
  • Antimicrobial, easy to disinfect to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Capacitive touchscreen to recognize input from a gloved finger or a stylus.
  • Integrated peripherals such as barcode scanner, smart card or IRS scanners.
  • Secure to protect confidential medical data.
  • Flexible mounting and docking options.
  • Long-term software compatibility to support contextual apps used for EMR, reporting, insurance lookups, etc.
  • Easy to carry, with a handle and straps – first responders should not worry about their devices, but focus on their patients.

Summary

It takes a medical-grade rugged device to transform an emergency vehicle into an operational mobile office capable of harnessing all the benefits of mobile technology, such as:

  • Improved electronic Patient Care Reporting
  • Automatic inventory management
  • Timely alert on patient allergies and existing health conditions
  • HIPAA-compliant data collection
  • Sync of patient injuries and stabilization procedures with trauma centers
  • Video conferencing with a remote team support for incident assessment, decision-making
  • Elimination of paperwork, delays in data entry, and the need for duplicate data entry

The use of real-time, mobile communication technologies can create a powerful platform that captures data from tablets, EHRs, clinical information systems on the go, and syncs it across disparate locations. That big data gives the healthcare worker a holistic, real-time view of the disaster situation, patients triage, identification, health records and insurance information on any device in the system. Such smart ecosystem provides more efficient care, saves more lives, and makes the work of emergency responders safer. Finally, with rugged tablets built from the ground up for medical use, a hospital’s digital workflow meets critical security regulations.

Tablet Use In The Medical Space

Information is gold. Timely access to the right information is priceless, especially in healthcare. The adoption of medical tablets in healthcare has reduced costs, improved quality of care and its mobility, and offered the fast and easy access to critical data. Healthcare mobility saves lives and empowers doctors and patients alike.

Mobility

The mobility makes medical tablets a natural fit in healthcare. Provided the device sports a reliable battery (better yet hot-swappable), the mobility is further backed by a reliable 24/7 uptime required in hospitals and emergency responder units.

Powerful computing capabilities coupled with multi-touch interfaces, stylus support, and light weight are some of the reasons hospitals are acquiring medical tablets. A tablet designed for medical use needs a processor powerful enough to be at par with its desktop counterpart. Such tablets pull buyers’ attention from the traditional laptops.

Fast, Accurate Data Entry

Clinicians equipped with tablets during on-round checkups keep personalized patient interactions, quickly access and capture critical data. No more double entry work, or skipped details –  the same reason first responders praise the benefits of rugged medical tablets in emergency situations.

Ruggedness, in this case, is a must since no consumer grade device can withstand the pressures and rugged environments of emergency situations, or survive accidental drops inside a facility. Medical tablets come fully ruggedized, equipped with various mounting options, a handle or carrying strips. Being lightweight & easy to carry in one hand, tablets have successfully replaced the traditional pen and paper, or laptops.

Integrated scanners/readers help validate patients, track and administer medications, and reduce the risk of error.

Applications

One of the key factors affecting the buyers’ choice when buying medical tablets is the operating system. Mobile operating systems like iOS and Android might provide hosted apps, or a virtual desktop. Yet, healthcare processes rely on enterprise systems and applications that doctors and nurses must be able to access from their tablets. Windows-based medical tablets offer complete compatibility for medical software & hardware. Be it EPIC EHR, or Anesthesia Applications, office back-end databases, patient infotainment, or patient tracking – Windows has an undisputed advantage in this area.

Compatibility

For a medical tablet to be easily integrated into the existing infrastructure of a facility, it has to a) run the operating system that is compatible with most applications; b) have HDMI, USB (micro and regular-size) ports to support direct access to data stored on USB drives and external hard drives, and allow for encryption of that data; c) have additional ports that allow connecting to the required equipment and peripherals.

When the tablet provides the necessary connectivity and compatibility features, it can be integrated into virtually any healthcare process from patient vitals monitoring, to EMRs, nursing stations, anesthesia carts, telemedicine, dispensing medication, issuing and signing prescriptions, point of care diagnostics to tracking inventory in pharmacies.

Ergonomics

Many healthcare applications call for the tablets to support the multi-display mode, or be large enough for the clinicians to be able to compare two images on the same screen. Modern technology allows for the medical tablets to be built from military-grade components offering crisp, detailed, hi-res image.

Tablets that support the dual-display capability can be connected to larger screens when the need arises. Top that with docking stations, VESA mounting, or Power-over-Ethernet, and you get an unprecedented ergonomics  much greater than that of traditional laptops or consumer tablets. Medical tablets are largely used by emergency responders, in ICUs, operating rooms, patient rooms, in hallways and corridors, at patient admission and discharge.

Infotainment – Patient-Friendly Hospitals

70% of hospital executives say “patient satisfaction” is their organizations’ top priority, according to a survey by Catalyst Healthcare Research and The Beryl Institute. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals’ income depends on patient satisfaction, and infotainment plays the key role in the way patients assess their hospital stay, offering unprecedented communication capabilities to patients and doctors.

From mobile games to emails, video conferencing and productivity apps, to educational slide shows, videos,  and ordered meals – infotainment tablets guide the patients from anxiety to satisfaction. Clinicians and nurses take advantage of educational apps and videos to instruct the patients on how to tend to their needs after discharge, or how to find their way around the facility.

Infotainment systems encourage patient engagement, serve as a positive distraction that relieves patient anxiety, make rooms feel spacious and futuristic due to wireless ergonomic design, and let patients quickly connect to healthcare professionals and family members. Easily shared medical tablets help physicians involve patients in discussing information, and provide it in an interactive, “easy-to-digest” manner.

Patient monitoring, Nursing Coordination

Measuring physiological signals has become easier with the advent of medical tablets. Noninvasive body sensors collect physiological parameters such as pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, and even detect when a patient falls. Wireless transmission of the acquired data to a physician’s or nurse’s tablet is instant. Such telehealth systems eliminate the wire clutter from the patient room, increasing patient safety. These systems identify abnormal conditions automatically, alert the medical staff in real time, and have proven to be very effective.

Data Security

Secure user authentication in medical tablets may rely on different technologies from biometric readers to RFID and Smart Card readers, to passwords, pins, full disk encryption and security key fobs. Strict HIPAA regulations on data protection call for a thorough look at a tablet’s data protection capabilities. Yet, when a tablet provides state-of-the-art data privacy protection tools, the device can be easily left in a public area of the hospital, and unauthorized users will not be able to access the sensitive information. Let alone the benefits such stringent security provides in telemedicine, when a lot of patient data is stored on the device.

Integrated Readers & Scanners in medical tablets further amplify their application in patient tracking, receipt issuing, inventory tracking and many applications that rely on barcodes, beacons, RFID or smart cards.

Patient & Doctor Safety

Patient and doctor protection from hospital-acquired infections is high on hospitals’ agendas. The advent of antimicrobial coating and fully antimicrobial casing in medical tablets has made them safe for near-patient use in sterile ICUs, operating and patient rooms. Fan-less builds have further improved the device safety by eliminating the particles circulation present in fan-based cooling systems.

Antimicrobial coating in medical equipment and furniture is gaining traction fast, and hospitals are eagerly harnessing the benefits of surfaces that keep eliminating pathogens continuously, even in between the disinfecting procedures.

The ingress protection (IP) of medical tablets allows them to withstand harsh disinfection with chemical solutions that harm consumer-grade devices. Moreover, if a tablet offers 60601-1 certification, it ensures the patient and doctor protection against electrical and radiation hazards.

Low Cost-of-Ownership

When all the prerequisites of a robust medical tablet are met, the end result translates to a low failure rate (i.e. Cybernet’s medical tablets have the overall failure rate less than 2%). This, in turn, translates to a low cost-of-ownership of rugged medical tablets – unlike consumer tablets used in healthcare.

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.

The iPad Versus the Healthcare Industry: Security and Biometrics

The modern tablet has countless benefits for healthcare. Among them, Internet connectivity, interactive touch displays, and easy portability are some of the first that come to mind. With Apple’s introduction, over the past few years, of a fingerprint biometric scanner into their line of iPads, it might seem that the iPad is making a place for itself in the healthcare world. And for those of you working in healthcare outside of a hospital setting, that may even be true.

For hospitals and other medical facilities, however, the iPad’s rise is somewhat of an illusion, at least for now. Though the iPad provides some useful functionality for clinicians and other healthcare workers, it lacks many useful, if not crucial, features found in medical grade tablets like those of Cybernet’s CyberMed medical grade tablet line. Of these differences in features, some of the most substantial include:

  • No Antimicrobial Housing
  • Lack of Waterproofing
  • No Integrated Barcode Scanner
  • Consumer-grade Materials
  • Lack of Dedicated Medical Tools and Applications

 

Perhaps the most significant difference of all is the level of security each type of tablet provides. For a medical professional, the security of patient data and other sensitive information is critical. To ensure security, medical grade tablets offer a slew of proven and cutting-edge options. In this sense, the iPad’s adoption of a biometric security tool is a step in the right direction in terms of healthcare usability, though it’s still many steps away from becoming an acceptable medical tool.

Why Biometrics?

The value of biometric security in healthcare is in its usability. The convenience of technology like the fingerprint scanner is undeniable, especially compared to its older alternative: manual password input.

Passwords are not only difficult to input in a medical setting, but create a variety of other problems, from sanitary issues to the logistical problem of remembering and keeping track of, in many cases, over five unique passwords. In addition, these passwords should be, ideally, not written down, but remembered. The fact that passwords must be changed frequently to preserve their integrity only adds to the confusion.

In contrast to the many problems passwords present, biometric security allows near instantaneous access, without involving the user’s memory whatsoever. When this ease of use means even a slight increase in peace of mind in an already hectic environment, or time saved in situations where time may be of the essence, the difference is striking.

Apple’s Fingerprint Scanner

From point-of-view of view an average commercial consumer, Apple’s introduction of fingerprint scanning technology is cutting-edge. For healthcare professionals, however, the bar is already set much higher, with companies such as Imprivata actively developing medical grade fingerprint scanning technology.

Naturally, there is a significant difference between the security needed for a regular phone or tablet and that needed for a device containing sensitive patient information and access to prescription capabilities. A variety of detailed and purposefully crafted legislation exists with regards to technology standards and prescription medication, which Apple’s fingerprint scanner fails to satisfy all-around.

The ability for iPad users to enroll and re-enroll fingerprints also problematizes their use in a medical space. The true identity of the person operating the device becomes impossible to verify as users are able to re-enroll others’ fingerprints as their own. The fingerprint can then, essentially, belong to anyone, an issue which, for obvious reasons, invalidates the security benefit the fingerprint scanner initially provides.

Solutions to the identity problem exist in the form of third-party validated federated identities, but this feature should not be expected from Apple soon, if ever. Medical grade tablets, on the other hand, have the capability to provide all of these security features, in line with legislation, and many more.

RFID Reader and the Smart Card Reader

In addition to fingerprint scanning biometric technology, medical grade tablets, like those offered by Cybernet, also come with added security measures. If, for whatever reason, you are not able or not willing to use fingerprint scanning, or prefer to have added layers of protection, the RFID Reader and the Smart Card Reader technologies will suit your needs.

Both of these options provide lightning fast, low contact security solutions. Like the fingerprint scanner, these options replace the impracticality of passwords, and allow additional functionality in medical contexts. When wearing gloves, for example, the RFID Reader, which does not require the use of exposed hands, can ensure that authorized personnel are able to quickly access pertinent data, without compromising safety. The Smart Card reader provides similar functionality, though the applications extend far beyond these.

Overall, the iPad’s inferiority to medical grade tablets is unsurprising. The daily tablet use of regular consumers, whether in work or entertainment, differs greatly from that of on-the-job healthcare workers. And while Apple continues to dominate the consumer tablet market, Cybernet continues to develop tablets that cater beautifully to all of medicine’s needs.

How Rugged Tablets Are Used In Healthcare

The introduction of rugged tablets into the marketplace has helped to improve the services provided by a variety of industries, but these devices have added significant value to the healthcare field. Tablets have eliminated the need for hand entered data, which can be life saving for some patients. Tablets have been incorporated into hospitals as well as other types of medical facilities, because they save time, money and energy. Some of the of the uses of tablets in healthcare include:

Mobile Imaging

The use of rugged tablets in doctors offices, hospitals and other medical facilities allow medical staff to access copies of medical images, such as ultrasounds and x-rays. This type of technology provides quicker access to images for comparisons, so two or more images can viewed side by side, allowing for appropriate treatment. There are also additional tools available for use with medical tablets that allow medical professionals to connect the tablet to an ultrasound probe, allowing for quicker ultrasound imagining.

Medical Documentation

One of the biggest advantages of using tablets in the healthcare field is the improved accuracy of patient data. Using a tablet helps an entire healthcare system remain organized and consistent in different facilities. This is extremely beneficial to patients who receive treatment through different healthcare facilities, because all of their medical information can be quickly accessed, allowing for quicker treatment to the patient.

Practice Management

Tablets provide medical organizations easier access to in-house scheduling and planning. Staff can be scheduled, surgeries can be planned and meetings can be arranged, all without having to stop what you are doing in order to access the staff computer system. This type of management system makes it extremely convenient for medical professionals who need to schedule patient visits and/or procedures with other facilities. Medical billing is also streamlined, timely and accurate with the use of a tablet.

Patient Education

Educating patients on their injuries or illness as well as the type of medications and/or treatments they need, is critical for their recovery. Tablets make educating patients easy, because the medical staff can use resources, such as online videos, diagrams and animations, to provide their patients with detailed information about their illness. Patient education helps them understand what is happening to them and with instant access to education, the patient will have a better opportunity to ask questions and/or voice their concerns as information is being shared with them.

Medication Orders

The use of a tablet provides medical professional with an instant view of current medications their patients are taking as well as allergies. This can be detrimental in providing medical treatments in an emergency situation, especially when medications you are going to give may interact with the patients current medications. If a patient is severely injured in an automobile accident and unable to speak, medical professionals can quickly search the patients medical history for medication allergies before providing treatment. Tablets also help to significantly reduce errors that are often found in hand-written orders.

Tablets and similar technology will continue to progress and change the way the healthcare industry operates, providing better experiences for everyone at every phase of the treatment process.