Reader Steven Hughes, of Boston Pocket PC, notes in a comment to this post that the thumb oriented user interface (pictured right) that I had attributed to Asus is in fact, "a software input panel called DialKeys by Fortune-Fountain it is
currently shipping on several Touch Panel devices like the Fujitsu
and Sony U series uPCs."

I have to agree with Steven that the OQO was not designed specifically for health care - but then, I can't think of any mobile or hand held computer that is. Steven also notes the broad acceptance in health care of computers on wheeles (COWs) using integrated computers, lap tops or even tablet computers with large capacity batteries and a small writing surface for charts and meds. The market requirements for a mobile health care computer include:

  1. "Disinfectable" - the unit must be water resistant so the unit can be wiped down with liquid disinfectant. The display screen, case and keyboard must be made of a material that won't be damaged by repeated exposure to harsh disinfectants. These chemicals can make some plastics brittle, resulting in crazing and breakage.
  2. Droppable - unless the computer is mounted on a COW, it will be dropped, repeatedly. A 3 foot drop rating onto linoleum would be ideal.
  3. Displayable - this requirement is as much a selection criteria as it is a product requirement. The display (and device for that matter) must be sized appropriate for the application. Don't run an EMR on a quarter screen VGA device, and don't do alarm notification on a device that can't be easily carried in a pocket. Displays must also be backlit because the lights in patient rooms are turned off at night.
  4. Data entry - must be aligned with the application. Fingers on a touch screen are good for alarm notification; a keyboard is needed for a head to toes assessment or other verbose applications.
  5. Battery life - a device should last a shift (that's 12 hours for most caregivers) on one charge. One battery change per shift is allowable, if it's quick and easy (like a removable battery that can be swapped out in seconds). A nursing unit could have 4 to 8 nurses, and a compact industrial grade charger - with charge indicators - must support enough batteries for all the caregivers on the unit.

These requirements are almost like those you'd find in a chemical plant or steel mill. That's why caregivers have had to use clunky industrial devices. I think the OQO comes pretty close to the above list. If anyone knows a device that comes closer, let me know.