This is Motion’s 10th year at HIMSS and my fifth. Healthcare continues to be an important vertical market for us, so I’m always excited to attend this show. What am I looking forward to discussing this year? Here is a list of my top five in no particular order:
- How fast is the industry moving to support mobile data? In Jeff Rowe’s article, “HIMSS12 helps health IT professionals manage ‘relentless pace of change,’” he notes how HIMSS Board Chair, Charlene Underwood explained that attendees will have access to a broad range of thought-leader sessions to find out directly where the industry is headed, and HIMSS is placing special focus on mobile health, among other topics. For example, mHIMSS, a recently launched HIMSS initiative, will be featured at both the week-long Interoperability Showcase and in the new-this-year Knowledge Centers.
- Are tablets affecting nurse and physician mobility differently? Are nurses using tablets more to run existing applications with intensive data collection and input or are tablets being used by physicians whose primary focus is consuming data?
- How are healthcare IT departments coping with BYOD or more simply, doctors with iPads? This has been a very hot topic since HIMSS 2011. Healthcare IT professionals seem to be embracing the fact that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Patient data needs to be available across a variety of form factors (phones, tablets, desktops), applications and operating systems. In the same HIMSS article that I referenced in the first bullet, Dr. Holly Miller, vice-chair of the HIMSS Board of Directors, noted that, “One of the things that’s going to be a game changer from the point of view of doctors is the ability to have EHR systems interoperable, so that discreet data can be integrated from one system to another.” This emerging capability, she added, “will be especially important when a patient is transitioning across care environments, such as being transferred from one facility to another, or referred from a primary care physician to a specialist for consultation.”
- Where is the money going? Healthcare priorities can change significantly from year to year, and HIMSS helps us get a sense of healthcare providers’ current budget priorities. Is it storage, improving compliance or supporting mobility? If healthcare providers don’t have a budget by the time they get to HIMSS, the odds are it isn’t going to happen in 2012.
- What do my peers think? HIMSS is a great chance for me to spend some time learning about the future of healthcare IT through in-depth conversations with customers, ISVs and hardware providers who are truly driving changes in the industry.
At Motion, we are focused on the walking or standing worker. Someone who needs access to information while they are walking a jobsite or providing care at a patient bedside. We call this “point of service” computing. Supporting this worker requires understanding the specifics of the deployment in four areas: The way the work is done (workflow), the environment in which it is done, the software usability and requirements and the IT infrastructure available to support the worker.
Workflow - How are tasks currently being accomplished and how could they be completed more efficiently?
It is very important to accurately document how the work is being done today before trying to automate it or change the workflow to utilize a tablet. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you automate a process that is out of control, you just get out of control faster.” Having IT teams or business process managers do a series of “ride-alongs” with customers’ front line workers can be invaluable in helping the team that is planning the deployment really understand the nuances of the current work process. We’ve learned a lot from these customer interactions when planning a new product. Some of added features have included easy-to read battery gauges that are visible from the front of the machine (nurses didn’t want to flip over the tablet to check battery life in the middle of a patient visit), identical batteries that are small enough to fit in a shirt pocket (field workers keep batteries warm by putting them in their pockets in the winter to help maximize the battery life), a hot-swap battery feature to support uninterrupted productivity and longer straps on some of our carrying cases (construction guys require a longer strap so that they can sling the tablet across their back not over their shoulder).
Another important consideration is the total number of devices mobile employees are now being asked to manage. It’s not uncommon to see a field technician carrying a mobile phone, computer, camera and GPS around with them. We’ve tried to integrate key peripherals where it makes sense in order to limit the number of devices that have to be charged, connected and carried. That’s why our C5v and F5v have options that include bar code scanners, digital/web cameras, RFID readers and magnetic stripe readers.
My point is that there are often subtle yet important differences between how the work is supposed to be done and how it is actually being done. Supporting the way the work is actually done can be a key element of a successful deployment.
What software are you going to use?
There is a lot of interest and excitement around the capability of using a tablet as a virtual machine by utilizing Citrix® or VMWare®. The general idea is that you don’t need to worry about the performance capability or the software compatibility of the tablet because you can run everything though the virtual desktop interface. We’ve had Healthcare clients doing this for years on our C5-Series tablets, primarily because they didn’t want to keep any patient information on the tablet due to privacy concerns. What is interesting is that most of these clients have still been asking for dual core processors and lots of memory. When we talked to them further, it turned out that while they were running their Electronic Medical Record (EMR) application in virtual mode, they had a number of other applications that were being run on the tablet and they still required a lot of processing power as a result. This is becoming more common across industries, a mix between cloud-based and client-based applications.
Understanding how your deployment will utilize the software applications and how many of those applications will need to be running at one time will help you choose the right operating system for the tablet as well as the right level of processor power and storage.
What environment is the tablet going to be use in?
If a tablet is going to be used while standing or walking, then it is probably going to get bumped or dropped from time to time. Cases can help, but they really can’t turn a system that was designed to be used by a consumer to something that will work well in a warehouse or on a construction site. These tablets will also need to be cleaned and in some cases disinfected. That is not always an easy task for a consumer-grade device. We have a partner that has created an Ultraviolet cleaning station for our C5v products. This video illustrates the challenges associated with disinfecting a tablet. If the system is going to be used outside you need to think about both the view-ability of the display in bright sunlight and the ability of the tablet to work in both hot and cold conditions.
The environment also includes considerations such as if the tablet will be assigned to a single person or shared across a number of units. Will it be used from 9-5 or 24 hours a day, seven days a week like we see in hospitals? Will the workers need vehicle mounts or hands free carriers for use while climbing ladders?
What infrastructure is available to support the deployment?
This area is closely related to both the workflow and the software. For many deployments, access to the internet is not always available or reliable enough to be completely cloud-based. For most of these customers, a store-and-forward design allows them to continue completing the inspections or transactions when they are offline. Once they move back into range or dock the system in an office they are able to synch their tablet with the network.
It is also important to develop an asset management and security plan for both the tablet and the information on the tablet. One of the benefits of point-of-service computing is that it allows your employees to have access to the critical information that they need when they are face to face with a customer or patient. This also means that there may be sensitive business or customer information on that system. There are a number of software programs that allow you to remotely disable a tablet and protect the data if the system is lost or stolen. We recommend Computrace™ from Absolute® Software. The important point is that you need to have processes and policies in place before any mobile device is lost or stolen.
The service and support process is also important. These units will become a critical part of delivering improved productivity in the field. When a tablet is out of service you may be losing some of the new revenue you’ve found by improving field collaboration and productivity. It is important that you work with your vendor and your reseller to design a service program that reflects how the units are deployed. For a hospital, a traditional on-site service agreement may be appropriate. For a company with 20-30 retail stores spread across 3 states with no local IT support, they may want more of a turnkey, accelerated replacement program.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in this article and I don’t want it to be intimidating. None of these questions require a tremendous amount of expertise in a specific area. They are intended to help you identify some of the key elements that lead to a successful tablet deployment. It is worth the effort, and more and more companies are starting to understand the fundamental business value of tablets. Here is how we define that value at Motion.
While limiting incremental costs, tablet PCs and supporting mobility solutions enable companies to increase…
• Revenue per transaction
• Cash conversion through shorter cycle times
• Efficiency through eliminating redundancies
• Customer satisfaction
When you are evaluating the list of proposed projects with your management team, this article may help explain why you are prioritizing the tablet rollout ahead of other projects. If you need more information, there is a recorded webinar on this same topic on Motion’s website entitled: Selecting the Right Tablet PC for Business
With all of the market buzz about tablet PCs, it's important to consider the distinctions between consumer focused tablet devices that are suitable for content consumption and tablet PCs made with the business in mind. At Motion, we design our products to meet the demanding needs of mobile workforces across business and clinical environments. This means full multi-tasking support and compatibility with either the Windows® 7 or Windows XP operating systems. It also means systems durable enough to survive being occasionally dropped or exposed to moisture and dirt.
With these requirements in mind, we're excited about the launch of the new C5v and F5v tablet PCs. It isn't often that we are able to significantly improve performance, increase battery life and add new features while maintaining full backwards compatibility. In 2007 Motion launched our first "purpose-built" tablet PC with the C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant (MCA). We extended the powerful performance and integrated features to the field shortly after with the F5 and have seen remarkable results at customer sites. Our newest systems are based on the latest Intel® CoreTM vProTM low voltage processors, and the C5v and F5v are delivering a tremendous improvement in performance over the Core 2 Duo systems. The C5v and F5v provide users significant enhancements, based directly on customer and partner feedback, including longer battery life and improved security. Other new features like the hot-swap battery feature, front-facing web-cam, and Gobi 2000 for improved connectivity are all focused around helping the mobile worker improve in the field performance.
But don't just take my word for it, Conrad Blickenstorfer, rugged computing expert, highlighted the new F5v in a product review at http://www.ruggedpcreview.com/3_slates_motion_f5v.html RuggedPCReview.com. In his very thorough review, he focuses on the importance of powerful processing, commenting, "Overall, in RuggedPCReview's benchmark testing, the new Motion F5v has roughly 2.2x performance compared to the 2009 Core 2 Duo machine, and about 3 to 3.5x performance compared to the original Core Solo version. It also easily runs rings around any Atom-based device."
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