Getting a jump on the competition before HIMSS, Motion Computing announced today the C5 mobile clinical assistant (MCA) tablet computer. The marketing folks are even trying to define their own product category anointing the C5 with its own acronym and referring to their device as, "a new computing category, created by Intel with support from Motion to enable nurses, physicians and other clinicians to do their jobs on the move." Be still, my heart. From the press release:

The C5 is the first highly sealed, fully disinfectable computer to integrate into one durable device the relevant technologies important to clinician workflow and productivity. The C5 combines multiple devices into one -- including a built-in barcode and RFID reader for patient identification and supply, specimen and medication administration verification; a built-in camera; and a fingerprint reader to improve security and simplify clinician authentication.

This is an impressive list of features. And not mentioned in the quote above is the hardware accelerometer, shock-mounted hard drive and magnesium-alloy internal frame to give the unit "dropability," an 802.11a/b/g radio and fingerprint reader for authentication. I also like the full-motion video camera feature - I'm sure that will get a lot of use.

Intel and Motion deserve kudos for creating a point of care device that meets important health care market requirements. Unfortunately the device still weighs 3 pounds and has a battery life of just 3 hours. During a 12 hour shift, that means caregivers will have to make 4 battery swaps - hmm, 16 nurses on a unit... that's 64 batteries! I will be looking for Motion's industrial charging system at HIMSS!

It seems to me the title of Mobile Clinical Assistant has already been won by COWs - computers on wheels. This device may end up the computer of choice for COWs (especially with a $2,199 list price), rather than traditional tablets, laptops and integrated PCs. I would guess only some hospitals will find it more convenient to lug a 3 pound computer barcode reader for meds administration rather than a purpose-built wireless barcode reader.

The market for point of care computing devices that support applications like charting is fragmented. Device preference is driven by the physical plant (room size and layout, door jams, etc.), institutional point of care workflow and even installed applications. Some hospitals will go with in-room computers mounted on the wall or on booms, some will put computers in alcoves outside rooms, and some will prefer the mobility of COWs. The C5 could even be deployed as a portable device paired with a COW that holds a docking station with a larger than 10.4 inch LCD mounted on the COW. Time will tell whether the mobile computing market will support a specialized device like the C5.

Look for my post from HIMSS on this new device. More on the C5 on jkOnTheRun and Health-IT World. Pictured right is the COW configuration of the C5.

UPDATE: Reader Bridget Moorman points us to this story on the BBC about the UK's NHS decision to buy the C5. This is great news for Motion, and  indirectly the health care industry - a purchase like this could drive the creation of more products tailored health care. According to Dr Mike Bainbridge,  a senior clinical architect for the NHS, "We anticipate that there are 300,000 practitioners
online at any one time in the NHS. How many will need one? Between 50
to 100%."

Before they can really benefit from their purchase, they need to deploy WiFi networks.

There will be limitations on the roll-out of the
devices. The MCA needs a wi-fi network in place to be able to talk to a
hospital's main database - one of its most vital functions.

Dr Bainbridge did not know how many UK hospitals have widespread wi-fi networks.

Oops. [Insert Monty Python quote here.] Also, be sure to note the "new product category" moniker, "MCA," used in the story.

The NHS is currently involved in a huge project to unify patient records on one database.

This records plan has generated controversy among many
GPs with many joining privacy advocates to express concerns about
confidentiality and which other agencies will have access to them.

It is usually advisable to purchase your software before buying hardware - especially with client devices that change so rapidly. By the time the NHS gets their wireless LANs and software set up, it will be time to refresh their MCAs. And then there's this:

Staff nurse Jenny Quilliam was impressed by how it improved her job.

"I was quite sceptical at first but after five minutes I
found it really easy to use," she said, admitting that it was prone to
frequent crashes.

Lots of new products crash frequently, but I'm surprised there's no mention about batteries.

For you marketing types, the story mentions lots of good statistics about the benefits of point of care workflow automation. These data provide the justification for point of care automation, but do nothing to show the C5 (or any other specific point of care solution) as superior to their competitors.