When most people think of medical care, they think of traditional care facilities such as hospitals and medical clinics. But times are changing, and the advent of new technology has freed healthcare facilities to move… literally. Mobile healthcare clinics are becoming increasingly common: able to travel to patients in rural locales or similar distant spots without surrendering the efficiency and accuracy of quality medical care. According to a recent article by Reuters, mobile healthcare accounted for over $23 billion in revenue in 2017, and that number only looks to expand in the future.
Medical-grade computers, especially tablets, can play a huge role in helping mobile health clinics more effectively treat their patients. As mHealth practices become increasingly prevalent and healthcare facilities weigh their options, it pays to understand what kinds of benefits one can derive from the right computer system. Here are a few benefits that medical-grade tablets can provide to mobile health clinics.
They’re Better Protected from Drops
Mobile health operations can’t always depend on the carefully controlled conditions one finds in a hospital or similar clinic. For example, a mobile tablet needs to be tougher and more durable than a commercial grade tablet. Mobile health clinics are vulnerable to many more bumps and jolts than stationary workspaces, and if an out-of-the-box tablet is dropped or jostled, it could suffer a great deal of damage. That in turn could severely affect the clinic’s ability to provide viable care by eliminating access to the computer’s data and analysis abilities. Mobile clinics lend themselves to more people handling the tablet as well. Patient registration, questionnaires or even accessing patient portals means a device might be handled by dozens of people per day. And patients aren’t always as careful with a device that isn’t theirs.
A rugged medical tablet should be tough enough to handle such drops. Ideally, it should be in compliance with military-grade specifications, allowing it to be dropped safely and endure similar bumps and jolts without damage. That ensures you’ll be able to use the tablet as needed and prevents the odd pothole or fumbling hands from turning a key part of your mobile clinic’s operation into an expensive paperweight.
Stop Germs from Spreading When You Travel
The spread of germs and illness from one patient to another is a serious concern for any healthcare organization. Hospitals and stationary clinics go to great lengths to curtail the spread of nosocomial pathogens (illnesses incurred directly from exposure at a hospital or clinic). That becomes much more difficult in a mobile health setting. The simple act of moving from place to place exposes staff members and patients alike to germs and similar illnesses, and mobile clinic staff who aren’t careful can inadvertently spread such contamination as they move from place to place.
This is especially problematic with mobile devices used in such locations. For example, studies from the National Institute of Health indicated that 80% of cell phones used by medical staff members carried some kind of bacterial pathogen on the surface. Tablets carry the same risks, since they are handled on a regular basis by hospital staff who spend a great deal of time in touch with contagious patients.
Medical tablet PCs can provide protection on that front. Specifically, tablets with an antimicrobial coating – or even better, antimicrobial properties in the resin of the case itself – can help repel germs and keep them from spreading from patient to patient as the mobile clinic goes about its rounds. In addition, tablets that are IP65 certified are protected against liquid or dust ingress, which means you can clean them with liquid disinfectant without compromising their operational capacity.
Telehealth Applications Bring Doctors Closer to Distant Patients
One of the central purposes of mobile clinics is to bring healthcare to people who might not be able to readily reach a stationary hospital. Whether it’s because they’re in a rural location far away from an established clinic, they lack the resources to travel there, or they’re sufficiently ill that reaching a hospital or similar location constitutes an undue burden on their health, a mobile clinic provides a ready answer by bringing equipment and personnel to them instead of the other way around.
Telehealth practices allow patients and doctors to connect from vast distances and provide efficient care via video teleconferencing and similar practices. For instance, the world’s first “virtual hospital” – Mercy Virtual Care Center in St. Louis – oversees care for almost 4,000 people living at home with chronic conditions. They, in turn, are connected to over 40 hospitals and 800 physicians in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, who can reach those distant patients via WiFi connections.
Medical grade tablets, with their light weight and easy portability, make an ideal way to establish such connections: allowing a patient to receive examinations, diagnoses, medical prescriptions and the like from doctors throughout an entire network of hospitals… all without leaving their bedrooms.
RFID and Barcode Scanners Streamline Data Management
Data management remains a serious concern for any medical organization, and such concerns loom all the larger in a mobile clinic. Bloodmobiles, for example, need to catalogue and keep track of the blood they collect, which involves a great deal of paperwork to make sure the samples are accurately catalogued.
Integrating such details into an electronic medical record (EMR) can be a painstaking and at times exhausting process. A recent New York Times articles stated that physicians can spend as much as half of their time on EMRs instead of catering for patients, which leads to a greater frequency of mistakes and increased burnout. Those factors are enhanced for mobile healthcare, which needs to ensure the data they gather is accurate and can be integrated into the EMRs of their entire network.
A tablet equipped with barcode scanners, radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, and similar features, can streamline the process of data management considerably. To take the above example, a barcode scanner linked to a medical tablet can quickly and accurately enter the blood type, date and time of collection, and donor data simply by reading the barcode on the blood sample itself. That, in turn, can be relayed instantly back to the hospital or stationary clinic, allowing its seamless integration into the network’s EMRs. Hospital staff can then make use of the data immediately – without having to wait for the mobile clinic to “return to base” – and personnel are spared the effort of cataloging the data by hand.
Hot Swap Batteries Provide Constant Power
Anyone who’s owned a cell phone – which is pretty much everyone at this point – knows the feeling of helplessness when their device runs out of power. Mobile clinics can experience a similar drain on their equipment, which can be a considerable problem with limited electrical outlets and finite power. A mobile tablet won’t be very useful if it needs to be plugged in to retain power, and dealing with low battery levels can distract staff members from the patient care they should be engaged in.
A tablet with “hot swap” batteries can help solve this problem. Such units can swap batteries out while the power is turned on: replacing them with fresh units from a recharging station without forcing you to shut off the tablet. That, in turn, allows it to continue operating 24/7, ensuring that staff members can use it whenever and wherever it’s needed without having to plug it in beforehand.
Cybernet Manufacturing carries a line of medical-grade tablet PCs that address the concerns of a mobile clinic. If your organization is invested in mobile medical services, contact us today to discuss your options!