Intel, Motion Computing develop tablet for health-care users

Doctors and nurses are increasingly abandoning clipboards and paper files for electronic patient files. However, a number of practitioners aren’t happy with the devices available for carrying on their rounds.

Laptops and are portable, but their weight often means bolting them onto carts, which then have to be wheeled around. Tablet computers can be held in one hand, but aren’t light enough for some. Personal digital assistants weigh nothing, but their screens can’t display a full patient chart.

Motion Computing, which makes Tablet PCs, thinks it has a solution: a plastic-encased unit specifically made for the heath-care industry that can be disinfected and has an integrated handle for easy carrying.

The Austin, Texas-based company, which sells its hardware through partners in Canada, announced Tuesday it is going into final pilot testing of the C5, a 1.4kg (3.2-lb.) device running Windows XP Pro Tablet Edition with a 10.4-inch screen. It runs on an Intel 1.2 Ghz Core Solo processor.

“We think we’re going to bridge a lot of the gap between the traditional PC cart-mounted device and what doctors want to carry around,” said Scott Ball, manager of Motion’s Canadian operations.

The $2,599 device will be available in volume to reseller partners and independent health -are software vendors in June.

One of those Canadian ISVs thinks the C5 could be find a market here.

“From the description it seems to be something that will be useful in Canadian health care,” said Saverio Rinaldi, president of Consulting Cadre, a Toronto company that makes a Web-based patient assessment software called Clarity Healthcare. His company also integrates its solutions on Motion’s devices.

While he has heard a number of health practitioners say they’d like a computer with a strap so both hands can be free when they want, he likes the C5’s reported weight.

“Whenever we’re doing pilots with people, the first thing is weight restriction,” he said, “the second is single-point (hand) entry.”

The included digital camera would be meet the demand of one of his customers, a home care service provider, whose workers may need to document the progression of injuries.

“There seems to be a growing interest in the use of mobile devices, if not demand, in health care,” he said. A number of Toronto-area hospitals are either Wi-Fi equipped or are undergoing wireless trials, he said.

At a press conference run by Motion and Intel, Toronto-based health informatics consultant Dr. Lynn Nagle said, “there’s still a lot of work to be done” in institutions across the country.

However, she also said adoption has been slowed because health practitioners are often asked to adapt their workflow to unsuitable portable systems.

Judging by the description she’s seen, the C5 offers “unparalleled” multifunctionality in a portable device for hospitals and clinics, she said.

The C5 was put together with Intel Corp.’s digital health group.

To keep the C5 clean there are no ports: connectivity to peripherals is wireless (Bluetooth), except for the optional $350 charging dock, which can be placed in a cart, on a desk or on a wall. Wireless availability includes Wi-Fi.

Tablet PCs already come with voice and handwriting recognition. The C5 includes a special handwriting module for recognizing medical terms.

There’s a built-in bar code and RFID reader for patient or pharmaceutical identification, a fingerprint reader for increased security if warranted.

In a report last year, Forrester Research analyst Eric Brown said that North American hospitals were expected to be spending on new applications including electronic medical records and wireless, storage systems, disaster recovery and integration projects.

However, he also warned that buyers emphasized that vendors must understand the health care industry.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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