Manufacturers of wireless computer-equipped medical carts face a complicated task. To be competitive, they need to design medical carts that fit within facility and caregiver workflows; provide a comfortable, productive work environment; deliver responsive, reliable computing performance; and contribute to better patient outcomes (Figure 1). Let’s look at how a medical cart computer series using an all-in-one form factor can help manufacturers meet many of these objectives.
Figure 1. Medical cart computers like this one from DT Research help cart manufacturers develop solutions that contribute to better workflows and patient outcomes.
Spanning the Last 100 Feet
While telecommunications companies cite the last mile as the most challenging in connecting users, for healthcare facilities, it’s the last 100 feet. Without medical cart computers or handhelds, the computing age gets left in the hall, increasing the risk of error. Nurses and physicians end up transferring data from the point of care to some other point of record-keeping. That’s why today, besides transporting medications and supplies, carts are increasingly becoming the point-of-care gateway to electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic medication administration records (e-MARs).
The latest cart designs use smaller footprints, lighter weight, and greater maneuverability to enable clinicians to roll carts up to a bed and enter information without breaking their engagement with the patient. Accessories ranging from wireless barcode scanners to printers increase cart versatility.
Medical Cart Design Challenges
Major challenges in implementing point-of-care computing systems on carts include:
- Appropriate certifications: As a medical device, medical cart computers must include design and safety features for regulatory compliance in targeted countries. Certifications left to cart manufacturers result in extra development time and costs.
- Power management: To ensure 24/7 operation on wheels, medical carts need power efficient computers that can run reliably for hours on batteries. Use of external battery packs must take into account the extra weight, heat, and expense.
- High resolution touch screens. Fast access to EHRs, e-MARs, and other patient and diagnostic information is essential. High contrast, capacitive touch TFT LCD screens enable wide viewing angles and intuitive interfaces.
- Hardware requirements: The wide range of PC platforms, processors, and displays can make for a lengthy selection process. The increasing number of applications used by medical professions increases the need to ensure adequate performance for present and future needs.
- Advanced security capabilities: Healthcare organizations must protect patient records at all times to avoid security breaches that can mar an organization’s reputation and bottom line. Any solution connecting to a healthcare facility’s network needs to offer security for both data in storage and motion.
Speeding Medical Cart Solutions to Market
For manufacturers looking for design shortcuts, companies like DT Research that specialize in medical-grade mobile computers are an excellent resource. Their three latest medical cart computers, the DT590BU, DT592BU and DT594BU, provide good examples. These all-in-one, cart-mountable computers allow cart manufacturers to combine their expertise in healthcare design with the latest in wireless mobile computing (Figure 2).
Figure 2. This figure shows the all-in-one design and hot-swappable batteries available with the DT Research DT590BU, DT592BU and DT594BU systems.
The three units differ in screen size. The DT590BU features a 19" screen, the DT592BU a 22” screen, and the DT594BU a 24” screen. All three all-in-ones include anti-microbial enclosures, sealed front panels that make them ideal for clean-sensitive environments. These enclosures make the units easy to clean to prevent bacteria formation. The units’ extensive safety and EMI certifications help manufacturers earn quick approvals for their carts’ in many healthcare environments. Certifications include: CB (IEC60601-1), CAN/CSA-C22.2 No.601.1, EN55011, EN60601-1, UL60601-1, FCC CFR47 Part.18, and RoHS.
For 24/7 mobile operation, the battery-powered DT590BU, DT592BU and DT594BU offer a hot-swappable battery pack option. These battery packs eliminate the need for inconvenient charging cords or high-cost medical cart batteries.
These computers feature a slim, space-saving all-in-one unit that reduces components and cords. Their TFT LCD screens provide 1280 x 1024 and 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution for an optimal viewing experience. Optional highly responsive capacitive touch and four assignable, built-in function buttons enable convenient operation. A VESA-compliant design allows secure mounting on carts.
The built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enable network access real-time data access and transmission on the move. An optional smart card reader enables solutions for user authentication identification and convenient data capture and chart updates.
For management, DT Research offers its WebDT Device Manager. This software is a comprehensive management tool for remotely managing networked systems. Using a web browser interface, this database management system supports a network of DT Research embedded appliances over LAN, WAN, and wireless networks (Figure 3). WebDT Device Manager utilizes “push and pull” technology to interact with remote appliances, allowing system administrators to:
- Inventory hardware
- Update operating system, BIOS, Client Agent, applications and registry entries
- Shut down, eboot, and wake up devices
- Access advanced logging and scheduling capabilities
Figure 3. WebDT Device Manager is a comprehensive management tool for remotely managing networked systems with a web browser interface.
A Processor Prescribed for Mobile Performance
For these medical cart computers, DT Research selected a 5th generation Intel® Core™ i7-5500U processor that runs at a base frequency of 2.4 GHz and an energy-saving 15 W thermal design power (TDP). This processor utilizes Intel’s new 14nm process technology to improve upon the previous generation Intel® Core™ processor’s success, delivering more transistors. The new process, combined with architectural enhancements, enables 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors to deliver up to 24 percent better graphics performance, up to 50 percent faster video conversion, and up to 1.5 hours longer battery life.
The integrated Intel® HD5500 graphics eliminates the need for a power-consuming discrete graphics card and provides up to 4K Ultra HD display capabilities. Healthcare professionals will profit from sharp, clear visual display of EHR data, diagnostic information, and videos.
The processor’s built-in security features offer reassuring protection to healthcare organizations worried about malware and other security breaches. Its Intel® Platform Protection Technology enhances security by verifying the boot portion of the boot sequence. The included Intel® Trusted Execution Technology offers measured launch execution protection, enabling an environment where applications can run within their own space, protected from all other software on the system. Intel® OS Guard, also part of the package, helps prevent compromise of the operating system kernel by attack code or malicious data. Intel® Data Protection Technology, another security feature, provides Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI). This fast, secure AES engine works with encryption applications to help protect data at rest and in transit.
What the Doctor Ordered
Medical cart computers like the DT590BU, DT592BU and DT594BU help healthcare facilities improve workflows, provide responsive computing performance, and keep more accurate records for better patient outcomes. To see more all-in-one computer designs for the healthcare market, visit our Solutions Directory.
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DT Research is a General member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine