The fundamentals of EHR hardware

2016August4_HealthcareArticles_BHaving to “check the files” without the aid of computers can be quite cumbersome. In the healthcare industry in particular, patient files are practically libraries unto themselves with medical history, allergies, vaccine status, lab test results, personal statistics, billing info, etc. all kept on record. Thanks to EHR, though, hospital staff don’t have to handle bulging phonebook-sized files anymore.

EHR stands for “Electronic Health Record” and a lot can go into getting your practice ready for one of these data-sharing, network-connected, enterprise-wide information systems.

One of the primary concerns when it comes to the actual physical setup of your EHR system is the computer hardware. You and your IT department – or perhaps a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with experience serving healthcare organizations – will need to assess how users can best connect to the system and then access and input information.

This brings to the forefront the decision about what kind of workstations to install, so let’s have a quick look at the 3 options your team should consider for working in an EHR environment.

Desktops

The first option is to install desktop computers which will be fixed to one location, hardwired, and stationary. Since they’ve been used in business for so long, the main advantages with desktops are that they’re low cost, installation & support are relatively simple, and there are numerous well-established vendors to choose from.

The drawbacks with desktops are that they take up more space than laptop computers, usually require the purchase of additional equipment in order to enable voice- or handwriting-recognition programs, and, since they’re stationary, every room requiring access to the EHR software will require its own workstation.

Laptops

The second option is to employ laptops which give you and your staff more flexibility. The advantages include easy connection to both wireless and traditional local area networks, better maneuverability to allow patients to see onscreen information, and portability should you need to move with the patient from one area of your practice to another.

One distinct disadvantage of using laptops is that they can be quite heavy, especially when carried numerous times throughout the day. Also, in terms of maintenance, repairs tend to be a bit more expensive with laptops, and you may need to send them to an off-site shop to be fixed.

Tablets

Offering even greater mobility than laptops are tablets, which are just as powerful as desktops and laptops but in hip, hi-tech, handy portable form. With tablets, users can move from room to room easily, inputting data with a digital pen as if they were writing on a paper chart or dictating to an application that accurately transcribes speech directly to the patient’s EHR.

The shortcomings associated with using tablets in an EHR setting include the learning curve that comes with new technology, such as writing with a stylus; handwriting programs that may not recognize all medical terminology; touchscreens that are prone to scratches; and the additional costs from either repairing or protecting against damage.

An Electronic Health Records system can provide enormous benefits to your organization by allowing for easier data entry, quicker data recall, and improved data accuracy. So after you’ve gauged interest among your staff, created an EHR budget, organized an EHR leadership team, and established an implementation plan, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of hardware.

If you’re unsure about which direction to go with your EHR workstations, give us a call today.

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