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Tablet PCs are becoming one of the most popular healthcare hardware options for medical offices and hospitals. Their lightweight portability allows physicians to carry the machine with them during procedures and patient visits, giving them the opportunity to document and chart electronically and without paper records.
There are a number of design and feature options to consider when selecting a tablet PC, and it’s important to choose the right model to fit your office’s needs. Convertible-style tablet PCs feature a built-in keyboard, while slate-style units forgo the keyboard in favor of a stylus pen. A slate-style model can be up to two pounds lighter than a convertible model, which many physicians find makes a huge difference in portability. Some smart phones are introducing pad units featuring applications compatible with EMR, giving iPhone and Android users the option to use these lighter and smaller pads in favor of a heavier tablet PC.
Battery life is another factor to consider – while tablet PCs for medical settings are required to have a minimum battery life of two hours, this battery life can vary based on the model. Different software applications that your practice or hospital will be running on the unit can also affect battery life. These software applications and the tablet’s ability to effectively run them are another important consideration in selecting a tablet PC.
Smartphones are small, lightweight, portable, and often fit into a physician’s lab coat pocket – making them the perfect solution for medical staff who would feel burdened by the need to carry larger tablet PCs or laptops during the day. New software applications allow doctors to use the pocket PC with nearly all of the same features as a standard tablet, including charting, ordering and printing prescriptions, managing billing, and more.
While the small screens may make using the device more difficult, the option to chart wirelessly and from a pocket-size device proves the perfect solution for many hospitals and doctor’s offices.
A laptop is an excellent option for doctors seeking a less expensive way to take their charts and data with them as they would use a tablet PC. Models are often affordable and run the same types of programs as the more high-tech tablet systems. Laptop computers are also a good option for nurses and assistants who do not need the same technology as a physician.
Laptop carts and a wide range of accessories can also be purchased, allowing the machine to double as a portable recording device and an accessible computer.
Computer workstations are a classic and stable choice for physicians not wishing to use a tablet PC or a laptop in the office. Their user-friendly capabilities and powerful software capacity makes them usable around the office and accessible to the entire staff.
Workstations are also one of the most affordable options, usually costing below $1,000 per unit. They make an ideal choice for the front desk and for offices with many physicians sharing a few treatment rooms. In these cases, a tablet PC for each doctor is excessive and placing one machine in a central location for shared use is the most economical option. Many workstations can be mounted on rolling carts, making them mobile in the office.
A server for your EMR system is one of the most important purchases your office will make regarding your switch to electronic medical records – and with prices ranging from two-thousand to the tens of thousands of dollars, it may also be one of the most expensive.
The server is the base unit for your office’s electronic medical records system and must meet the EMR vendor’s minimum requirements for running the system. These minimum requirements will be one of the central factors to consider. It’s also important to consider storage, backup systems and space, the database software, and the server’s operating system. It may be necessary to purchase additional software to supplement the server that you feel is right for your office.
Many servers offer RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) arrays to protect from hard drive failure and loss of data. These systems are often under $1,000 and a worthy purchase for a medical office. Operating system options include Microsoft, Windows, UNIX, Linux, and more. Consulting an IT company is often a smart option if you are not sure which server is best for you.
Scanners and imaging devices come in a variety of different models with different features. Your office’s needs may be different based on your hospital or practice’s organization. Popular models from Fujitsu can be placed next to a computer or at the front desk, making it convenient for staff to scan documents, forms, and more while with patients. Other units have printing and fax capabilities built in to save on equipment costs. Some providers choose a high-speed scanner for the EMR implementation phase to save time on scanning records.
The type of network you need depends on the types of computers and equipment you choose for your office. The network connects all computers to each other and can do so either via cables (ASP) or wirelessly. If your office uses wireless tablet PCs, your network will need to be wireless and run from an access point.
Business-quality wireless access points provide a more stable network than other home wireless systems. For a cable-based ASP system, your office will require internet access and cables at each computer terminal in the office. The advantages of this system over the wireless system are the stability of the cables versus a wireless network that may encounter network problems at times.