Prioritizing Patient Safety and Privacy
A recent report by HIMSS Analytics states that healthcare providers are concerned about the safety and security of mobile technology used in healthcare. The ubiquitous use of mobile technology in healthcare organizations has provided enough experience for organizations to point to their strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices in patient care. Improved communication and data access are definite advantages of mobile technology in healthcare. But consumer mobile devices don’t contribute to the improvement of patient safety (physical) and data security (electronic). HIMSS Analytics sees an opportunity here that the vendors of health IT solutions should seize to improve care quality through technology.
The same concerns are valid for health IT solutions in general, including but not limited to mobile technology. Patient, and doctor, safety must be an integral part of any solution implemented within the healthcare system because only medical grade hardware can address the challenges faced by the industry. That is why medical tablets and medical grade computers are built according to industry standards and tested to certify their safety for near-patient use.
Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) cost organizations millions in readmissions, while 75,000 patients die every year as a result says the CDC. Smartphones used in healthcare become the transmitters of HAIs, as they travel from patient rooms to labs and surgery rooms and back to patient rooms. A study revealed that 94.5% of consumer mobile devices are infested with bacteria, while 89.5% of doctors never clean their personal smartphones they use for work.
The casings in consumer computers and mobile devices are made of porous plastic that become a reservoir of pathogens within hours of use in a hospital. Porous surfaces host microbes and make any infection control strategy fruitless as proper disinfection is impossible due to hardware restrictions. The consumer PCs, laptops, and smartphones can’t be exposed to liquid disinfecting solutions because a) they don’t have the ingress protection, and b) the plastic is not sturdy enough to withstand harsh chemical solutions and can disintegrate over time.
Medical grade tablets and all-in-one computers address infection control and patient safety issues by introducing:
- antimicrobial surfaces
- sturdy non-porous casing
- fanless design
- IP65 sealed bezels
Antimicrobial surfaces in medical tablets and computers kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses even after repeated contamination and between disinfection rounds. These surfaces remain active throughout the device’s lifecycle and make infection control much simpler. For instance, CyberMed Rx rugged medical grade tablet is entirely antimicrobial including the casing and the touchscreen.
Antimicrobial surfaces are becoming the new norm in healthcare organizations because patient rooms, surgery rooms, ICUs and other near-patient areas call for equipment that is antimicrobial and easy to disinfect. That’s where medical grade tablets and computers benefit from IP65 sealed waterproof bezels, fanless build, and sturdy casing.
IP65 is the ingress protection rating that ensures the medical grade tablet or computer is dust- and waterproof. The sealed enclosure in IP65 tablets is protected from low-pressure water jets from any direction, so disinfection with liquids is safe for the electric components. Additionally, the fanless build further ensures that the medical grade computer or tablet used in operating rooms or ICUs do not circulate contaminated dust into the sterile environments.
The sturdy plastic used in the casing of the medical tablets and computers withstands cleaning and disinfection with harsh solutions, year after year.
The CDC mandates that medical devices be disinfected after they’ve been cleaned, and the disinfection involves chemicals that eliminate all known pathogens. At the same time, regulations aren’t always followed, and touchscreens and mobile devices used in healthcare aren’t always disinfected consistently. So, to decrease the contamination risk and improve patient safety, the antimicrobial surface is a must to ensure the pathogens are continuously eliminated between the disinfection rounds.
Electric and Radiation Safety
Another critical aspect of health IT affecting patient safety is the radiation and electric safety of near-patient devices. Again, medical grade computers and tablets address this issue on multiple levels.
Medical grade all-in-one computers have an ergonomic design that removes unnecessary wire clutter for improved safety in patients prone to tripping. For instance, such ergonomic design incorporates external peripherals such as a barcode scanner, RFID reader, or a power source in the build of the computer or tablet. Less external peripherals – fewer wires – improved safety and usability.
When the medical computer mounted on a non-powered cart is powered by its very own hot-swap batteries and can power the peripherals connected to it, the configuration is not only easy to move and use but also safe for near-patient areas.
Equipment relying on an internal power supply, such as hot-swap batteries, needs to be tested and certified for near-patient safety too. Therefore, hot-swap batteries or internal backup batteries used in medical grade computers and tablets must be certified to meet the EN60601-1 and UL60950 electrical and radiation safety standards for use in healthcare settings. For lithium ion batteries, transportation testing is mandatory, and Energy Star 6.1 adherence is a must for medical grade devices in general, if energy efficiency is a priority.
The battery in a medical grade computer or tablet must never pose a risk to its environment, the patient, or the medical staff. A safe battery is also durable, ensuring not only shift-long uptime on a day-to-day basis but also low Total Cost of Ownership throughout the lifecycle of the device.
Security of Electronic Patient Health Information (ePHI)
The recent FDA Guidance on Postmarket Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices does not include compromise of ePHI in the list of factors that contribute to patient harm and refers manufacturers to HIPAA for guidance on this issue. However, it remains clear a data breach compromises patient safety and security as it can result in identity theft and fraud. Additionally, the consumers are increasingly aware of the security threats targeting their health information, which is often reflected in how they evaluate their provider.
Hence, the HIT industry must address the security of ePHI just as it addresses patient safety, implementing RFID Imprivata SSO, biometric scanners, CAC and SmartCard Readers, robust encryption and sandboxing in medical grade computers and tablets.
Medical grade computers and tablets improve patient safety through design choices that embed safety in the device by design and by default. Antimicrobial surfaces, IP65 sealed bezels, sturdy enclosure, fanless build, electric and radiation safety of the device and its batteries complete with robust cybersecurity mechanisms allow healthcare providers improve patient safety, outcomes and satisfaction.