Medical computers are marvels. Providers and other medical staff can access patients’ electronic medical records (EMR), X-rays, blood test results, and even financial info with a press or swipe of the touchscreen. Access can even be done off-site. This means doctors on-call at home no longer have to wait on the phone for the on-site CNA to pull a file from the file cabinet.
Unfortunately, medical computers are still stuck in whatever location healthcare IT installed them. This could be that workstation located in a long corridor on the other side of the ICU or tucked away in a side room. Regardless, providers and RNs are forced to spend precious minutes finding the workstation, logging onto the PC, pulling up the desired information to review, and trudging back to the patient. And after they’re done, it’s time to repeat this ridiculous cycle in reverse to enter new information like the patient’s health status, changes, and treatment plans.
Workstations on wheels break this cycle. Also called WoWs or, rarely, CoWs, workstations on wheels bring the medical computer to the patient or wherever the provider is located. No more wasted time going back and forth to retrieve the info. And information is entered right then and there, at the patient’s side.
This mobility gives WoWs advantages in patient tracking and staying powered 24/7.
Tracking patients is an important part of healthcare. We’ve all heard horror stories of patients getting the wrong amputation or drugs. Medical staff like RNs, to ensure patients are who they are per the EMR, place ID wristbands on each of them. Each has a barcode with the patient’s vitals like name, condition, any allergies, and approved medications and medicine dosages.
A medical computer can handle all this ID tagging from creating the wristband to the scanning. But who wants to bring the patient to the workstation each time they need to be ID’d?
This is the advantage of WoW. A medical staff member instead wheels the PC to a newly admitted patient. After verifying their identity, they print out a new wristband with its barcode via the attached printer. As staff sees and treats the patient throughout their stay, they scan the barcode using the attached barcode scanner. The setup keeps the patient comfortable while allowing the hospital to keep track accurately in real time.
Computer Use 24/7
The medical computers on WoWs will need the power to work while they’re wheeled from patient to patient. WoWs can do so in two ways. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Powered workstations on wheels come with a rechargeable battery attached to them. Staff simply plugs the PC as well as any peripherals into it and goes about the rounds. Win-win for everyone, right?
Well, not exactly. The battery is heavy. Think 30-40 pound range. This can be wearing on the poor RN or aide having to push the WoW and its computer during the entire shift. Burnout becomes a real possibility.
The battery power of the typical WoW lasts around 12 hours, a typical worker’s shift. It then needs to be recharged which can take between 2-6 hours. This means the PC on it is unavailable for the next shift of medical personnel or at least part of their shift. This “pause” is simply unacceptable, especially in healthcare facilities like hospitals which are often operating 24/7 and 365 days a year.
The second way WoWs power a PC is, interestingly, not powering it at all. These non-powered charts have no batteries. Instead, it’s the PC itself that houses the rechargeable batteries.
The advantages are startling. Batteries used in this manner are a fraction of the weight of the battery used in powered-WoW (think under 10 pounds).
The batteries can power the PC and any attached peripheral for several hours though admittedly not as long as a powered chart. But here’s their advantage: they’re hot-swappable. This means the user can take spent battery packs out and replace them with a new, fully-charged ones. Even better, they don’t even have to turn off the PC while doing so.
No longer does staff need to wait for a powered WoW to be charged to round during a shift. Instead, they can check the hot-swappable batteries to see if any are low – or even out – of power. Those are pulled out and plugged into a recharging unit. Freshly charged batteries take their place in the PC. This cycle allows staff to use both the computer and WoW continuously without worry or delay.
Today’s healthcare system has found many advantages with medical computers. But having to come and go to a stationary workstation is fatiguing and wastes precious time that should be spent with patients. Workstations on Wheels allow providers and medical staff to go to the patients instead. This helps in patient tracking and computer use 24/7.