When it comes to devices, Al Campanella says generosity is the best approach.
"We never want the lack of a computing device to be an impediment to care," says Campanella, vice president and CIO at Virtua, a four-hospital delivery system based in Marlton, N.J. Thus, across Virtua, caregivers use a combination of carts, wall-mounted devices and conventional desktop workstations, in addition to tablet computers.
The inventory of 1,200-plus devices includes some 400 workstations on wheels, assigned to nurses who use them for a variety of documentation chores, including medication administration.
The mix is changing, however. At Virtua's newest hospital--Voorhees, only a year old--carts are in short supply. There, wall-mounted computers adorn every patient room. "The workflow in the new hospital was carefully designed," Campanella says. "We assumed almost everyone would walk up to a computer and use it."
Computer-equipped carts-called workstations on wheels (WOWs), or more commonly computers on wheels (COWs)-were once predicted to become the tool of choice for peripatetic caregivers. But market trends prove the axiom that no one size fits all: Mobile devices are making inroads into every nook of patient care, and in some facilities are kicking carts to the curb.
But while carts have proven to be cumbersome for some, they've been a godsend for others. The drawbacks of carts, namely their bulk and battery life, are largely counterbalanced by their benefits, namely their enhanced utility compared with hand-held devices.
Newer, streamlined versions of carts have emerged as vendors have responded to market demand. So while many new hospitals like Virtua focus on using mounted computers and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, they inevitably find that carts need be part of the data access equation.
Gary Baldwin’s feature story in the August issue of Health Data Management looks at new trends and capabilities with carts.
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