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Why let inadequate tech interfere with patient care?

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According to Zebra’s global Healthcare Vision Study, more investment in the right technologies is needed and healthcare-ready device usage is preferred to consumer selections.

Healthcare workers around the world are facing the demoralising effects of inadequate tools, which impacts patient care. Those who have visited relatives in the hospital may have witnessed clinicians wasting valuable time struggling with faulty equipment such as a cracked tablet screen, or disinfectant solution seeping into electronic devices which slows everything down. These are examples of equipment not designed for the job. Meanwhile, the pressure is multiplying as data-driven healthcare evolves very quickly. 

Digital technology enables data collation of vital statistics, blood test results and the doctor’s diagnosis. Now no longer buried in paper-based folders, they can be quickly cross-referenced against thousands of outcomes, creating tailored treatment programs. The power of digitally driven treatment plans is huge, allowing patients to receive the right treatment at the right time.

Inadequate technology means the whole system starts to falter as caregivers find themselves troubleshooting equipment failures instead of tending to their patients. According to Zebra’s global  Healthcare Vision Study, more investment in the right technologies is needed and healthcare-ready device usage is preferred to consumer selections.

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Lorna Hopkin, EMEA Healthcare Solutions, Zebra Technologies

For example, why are purpose-built enterprise healthcare devices such as Zebra’s ET4x-HC Series—the ET40-HC tablet (Wi-Fi 6) and the ET45-HC tablet (Wi-Fi 6 and 5G) a better choice than a consumer tablet?

A consumer device has computing and mobile capabilities, but in high pressure hospital environments many tasks need completing. The computing prowess may be like for like, but with additional medical workflows, the downsides of consumer tablets come to light. 

If a patient requires medication, their ID wristband and prescribed drugs must be scanned and linked to their medical record. Zebra’s ET4x-HC Series alleviates problems by including an enterprise-class barcode scanner enabling both scanning and data transfer. However, consumer tablet and smartphone devices attempt to achieve the same result with a camera and third-party scanning application, resulting in defective scans and delays in information collation.

If a patient becomes confused and tries to climb out of bed after receiving their medication, pressing an ET4x-HC Series tablet’s emergency alert button calls in the wider team to help whilst the clinician manages the patient. These devices can assist with immediate tasks, such as providing specific medical equipment, preparing for a timely procedure, or even an extra pair of hands. Consequently, healthcare staff can focus on calming and attending to their patient’s needs without multitasking.

After ministering to a patient, the tablet needs to be cleaned. Sanitation and cleanliness are critically important in medical environments. Consumer tablets may be designed for a light wipe now and again, but the ET4x-HC Series is designed specifically for healthcare. They can be exposed to harsh conditions, like blood and bacteria, without spreading infectious diseases. Zebra’s healthcare-grade enterprise tablets can be sanitised, before and after every patient interaction, multiple times per hour. These devices can be thoroughly disinfected hundreds of times weekly with strong chemicals and continue working as they’re made of advanced medical-grade plastics resistant to chemical abrasives, and in a colour that withstands UV light cleaning.

An additional distinguishing factor between medical-grade enterprise tablets from consumer ones is the ease of battery replacement when they reach end of life. An ET4x-HC Series tablet’s battery can be swapped out with a fully charged battery in seconds in the field by front-line workers. However, a consumer tablet must be taken out of service and sent into a depot for battery replacement, resulting in extra tablets required for workers during that period. 

Another difference is that consumer tablets won’t necessarily alert users about imminent battery end of life, so workers will suddenly find themselves with a dead device. The ET4x-HC Series tells users when a battery needs replacing – before powering down. Its PowerPrecision battery technology, which is exclusively available with Zebra devices, constantly monitors and reports on each device’s battery health via a dashboard. Consequently, teams can have fresh batteries on hand for a proactive swap before battery levels become critical. 

Many people consider consumer devices “good enough” for the job. But “good enough” doesn’t cut it in mission-critical industries like healthcare. It’s possible that after two years, a consumer tablet may still be in service, but it will be outdated by consumer standards. Therefore, it will stop receiving critical feature and security updates, exposing healthcare facilities to new risks. Consumer original equipment manufacturers rely on quick churn of devices and don’t prioritise enterprise users’ needs around standardisation, stability and support. Plus, the consumer tablet will have suffered more wear and tear since it wasn’t designed for a healthcare environment, forcing users to refresh in just 24 months. 

Alternatively, Zebra’s purpose-built ET4x-HC Series will still be working, lasting up to six years easily – with the correct Zebra OneCare service package, three times longer than a consumer tablet! By meeting the latest military durability standards, the ET4x-HC Series is usable in extreme temperatures as well as being rain and drop proof to 3.3 ft/1 m. Its extensive range of healthcare enterprise-grade accessories includes a disinfectant-ready hand strap for easy portability, multi-slot charging cradles, and a presentation stand to create a kiosk-like patient self check-in solution in the waiting room. A VESA mount adapter fixes the tablet to a patient’s bedside so they can contact their nurse, view their medical records, or order food. The ET4x-HC Series includes enterprise software to maximise caregivers’ productivity and minimise IT complexities of device management.

This tablet covers users on performance and cost. Surprisingly, the total cost of ownership is lower with an ET4x-HC Series tablet while the total benefit of ownership is higher.

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