Posted by: RedaChouffani
android, COWS, iPad, tablets, XOOM
During a recent hospital visit, I noticed a set of commonly used mobile computers, referred to as COWS (computers on wheels), moving around the halls of the cardiology floor. These very useful, and mobile, PCs were being used to document patient care and track inventory.
The COWS were made simply of a Wyse station that had wireless connectivity to a Citrix Presentation server, mounted on a moving platform, which had batteries connected to the bottom of it. These units were being rolled in front of the patient rooms, where the nurses would then scan a patient’s bracelet to ensure their identity, giving them the ability to track and verify medications and decrease chance of error.
But if the functionality needed from these units is simply the need to have connectivity to a terminal server, could a VMware platform for VDI (Virtual Desktop) or a Citrix server or tablet device do the trick instead, while possibly providing added value?
The following are some of the functionality and features that tablets might have over thin clients that are available on the COW units:
· Mobility: In the sense that when patients are receiving visitors and you can’t drag the COWS in the room, a tablet can be undocked and then taken to the patient’s bedside to read their bracelet or tag to confirm their identity and collect data.
· Battery life: Currently COWS require more power than a tablet device. In several of the new tablets, the battery life extends on average six to eight hours.
· Versatile: A tablet can be used to capture vitals by simply connecting through Bluetooth or wireless connectivity to some of the medical equipment. It can also assist hospitals reduce operational costs by reducing some of the paper based data entry.
The truth is that we can’t simply just venture off and assume these devices can replace the current COWS. In theory, they have a lot to offer, but one must take careful steps in evaluating this technology. There are still areas that need to be defined, such as securing these devices, as well as ensuring that their value has actual ROI for the hospitals that are using them. We must also understand the limitation of these tablets, which will become clearer as we continue down the road toward mobile health and remote patient monitoring.