Field Device Selection: Balancing Weight, Screen Size and Price

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By Dan Zucchini 
Hardware Consultant, Change Healthcare
home care field device

Sometimes it seems life is a never-ending series of trade-offs, and that’s certainly true for the devices your clinicians carry with them into the field. Every clinician would like a lightweight device with a large screen that’s fast, durable and easy to use. Of course, the larger the screen, the heavier the device—and the trade-offs begin.

Considerations for choosing field devices:

  • Touch screen. Having a touch screen allows patients to sign electronically and helps the clinician be more efficient. Capacitive screens are less precise and, thus, harder to use than the more expensive digitizer screens.
  • Battery life. Generally speaking, each battery cell provides 1.5 hours of use. Clinicians need enough battery life to take them through their work day.
  • Screen brightness. A bright screen is important if clinicians sometimes document in their car during daylight hours.
  • Clinicians do not want to carry around a heavy device.
  • Smaller screens are usually harder to read, but large screens add weight to the device.
  • SSD drive. Solid state drives are faster and smaller than spinning drives for not much more money. Look for drives that are removable in the field (they contain personal health information and should be removed if the device is sent for a non-drive-related repair).
  • Ruggedness. Consider features like gorilla glass, shock-mounted hard drives, spill-resistant keyboards, and bumpers to extend device life. Alternately, consider purchasing a damage-protection warranty.

Some organizations are having success with using Apple® iPad and Android™ devices as thin-client devices (all information stored on the network, not the device). I caution my customers that only organizations with robust connectivity in their area have succeeded with this model—any time a clinician does not have service, she must resort to documenting on paper. However, in areas where service is not an issue, organizations can save money on devices and not worry about HIPAA compliance in the field because PHI is not stored on the device.

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