Mobile Carts in Healthcare – A Brief History and Beyond
The beginnings of Computer on Wheels (COWs) or Workstation on Wheels (WOWs)
Electronic Medical Records (EMR)and Electronic Health Records (HER) were the driving force for the development of Mobile Carts or Computer on Wheels. With EMR and EHR in Healthcare, computer devices were needed to help Caregivers capture and share the Patient Data, Patient Images and access Patient Charts through the Wireless Network. This was to be done securely and efficiently in an effort to implement a big step in Patient Privacy. Mobile Carts with a UPS and Battery were the early types. They were effective but the Run Time was adequate at best and they were kind of clunky. Enhancements came only as Up and Down Adjustments and Adjustable Keyboard Trays. The Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) Batteries overall life was around 12 months and Run Time would be reduced greatly toward the end of their life. What used to run for 6 to 8 hours now only lasts 3 or 4 hours. This became a burden on Biomed and the IT Departments supporting them. The question came up many times: Who is going to support the Mobile Carts…Biomed because of the Battery Power or IT because it housed a Computer, Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse. Turns out, IT drew the straw on that one.
What we have now.
As the Mobile Carts were used more and more, they became widely accepted. Ideas for efficiencies by using Mobile Carts focused on their intended use in each area of Healthcare. Every area of Healthcare is different and require different tools and accessories. Soon, they were being used for Specific Tasks – Charting, Admissions, Medication Delivery, Radiology, Phlebotomy and Respiratory. Through the use of specific Accessories, they became effective tools for the Caregivers saving them time and footsteps. Caregiver Safety came in the form of Ergonomics like: Adjustable keyboard trays – up/down and side to side movements and Adjustable monitor mounts – tilt and swivel to face patient or hide screen from prying eyes.
Technology kept driving on in the Power Systems and Battery Technology too. The old SLA Batteries were replaced by NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) and Lithium Batteries. Lithium Batteries came in the form of Fixed Batteries solutions, like before, and then Hot Swap Batteries emerged as an alternative. All of these delivered much longer run times, shorter charging and overall longer life…up to 7 years!
Computer on Wheels Cart development produced lighter carts using aircraft quality aluminum, plastics, polymers and cast materials. The new materials contained Infection Prevention features, as well – Microban was infused into the paints, plastics and polymers of each Mobile Cart. They now had easy to clean surfaces for wipe downs to kill bacteria and pathogens.
The Mobile Carts today are Easier to Use and Maintain than before. Batteries and Power Systems last longer and require less maintenance. The Mobile Carts are well built and will last up to 10 years, depending on the Manufacturer. We currently support and maintain Carts built 13 years ago for a few clients. They just keep rolling and rolling with regular Preventative Maintenance.
Where is Point of Care with Mobile Carts going?
We are currently seeing a couple trends in Point of Care with Mobile Carts or the ability to electronically enter and capture patient data.
We are seeing the need for more Carts in Hospitals, Health Systems, Clinics, Surgery Centers. Physician Practices, Rehabilitation Facilities, Long Term Care, Senior Care, Dental Care and other Health Related Facilities.
We are receiving more and more requests for simple Non-Powered Carts. Caregivers and physicians are using these are their “Home Spot” that becomes their vehicle to carry their Laptop or Tablet, Charts or other things to each patient. (this simple approach reduces Cross Contamination in Infection Prevention…but that is another conversation)
Computer Carts have been lightened and will become lighter. Monitors and computers have become lighter. Battery Run Times have increased greatly and will last 5+ years, depending on the Lithium Battery Technology.
Cart Management has moved forward with a couple forms of Computer on Wheels Cart Inventory Software that have a dynamic Dashboard to show Cart location, Battery Health and User Log In History. Monitoring of a Mobile Cart fleet is now at your fingertips.
What will we see in the future for Point of Care Mobile Carts?
Charging Mobile Carts through Proximity Chargers in the Hallways or Alcoves?
How about Carts that won’t need charging at all?
Lighter Carts are always high on the Want List. How about Super lightweight carts?
I have seen small RX Carts (like a R2-D2) that deliver Meds Carts to Caregivers from the Pharmacy on request. How about Mobile Carts that follow the Caregiver under its own power – No more pushing.
How about Mobile Carts that notify IT or the User that an Update, Service or Repair is needed? IBM has had that Service for decades in their support model. An IBM Technician would show up to perform a Service or Repair because the IBM Mainframe directly opened a ticket and contacted him.
ASR are here to help every step of the way. We can help you off-load Cart duties, help supply New or Refurbished Mobile Carts, Wall Arms, JCAHO Prep, Repairs, Refresh, Upgrades, Accessories, Batteries and Tech Support. We are a brick and mortar facility with a Tech Center, Parts Department and Warehouse just for Point of Care.
Every Mobile Cart Configuration is possible – we will help Retro-fit your existing Mobile Carts or provide additional Carts.
Think of ASR for:
• Documentation Carts
• Charting Carts
• RX Carts for Medication delivery
• Respiratory Carts
• Phlebotomy Carts
• Admissions Carts
• Radiology Carts
• Tablet Carts
• Laptop Carts
• TeleHealth Carts
• Any Cart for any requirement
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more.