Okay, it's not an off-the-shelf PC as like the Motion C5 or Philips ProScribe. But this is one very interesting device. Developed by Emano Tec in conjunction with CareGroup's Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, the MedTab hits the following point of care requirements:

  • Droppable (tested to 30g impact)
  • Pocketable (5.5 x 7.5 x 0.5 will fit in a lab coat pocket)
  • Can be wiped with disinfectants
  • Water resistant
  • 12 hour battery life (with larger capacity battery)
  • Wireless - 802.11g and Bluetooth
  • 1024 x 768 touch screen display
  • Optional bar code, RFID, magnetic card, and fingerprint readers
  • $2,000 each with volumes of 50 or more

Did I mention it has a 12 hour battery life? Wow, I'm impressed. We have yet to reach perfection, but this device comes close for a clinician carried use model. This is a very, dare I say, sexy device.

Unfortunately the target market is physicians. There are several large institutions that could spring for a device like this, but nothing like a majority of the hospital market. Another bit of a miss is targeting EMR applications - actual EMR adoption is quite a bit behind all the hype - although the early adopters will probably be the large institutions who might actually buy something like this for their physicians (places like Kaiser, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo and large university teaching hospitals come to mind).

Sorry doctors, but the user population in hospitals that has the biggest impact on patient safety and outcomes is nursing. It is nursing that must deal with the sad state of medical device alarms, high nurse to patient ratios, and would greatly benefit from nurse carried alarm notification. Of course this device could also be used for meds admin and other point of care workflow automation. (Please no charting - use COWs for that.)

Nursing represents the largest category of unfilled positions in hospitals (almost 120,000 according to the AHA) - the nurses we do have working in hospitals could really use a break. But like the physician EMR rounding market, I must sadly admit there's not much of an existing market for nurse carried computing devices. There is however a long standing (and unmet) market requirement representing substantial demand - recall the adoption VitalCom had with their paper-based solution (until it was proven to be unsafe), and just wait to see hospitals snap up Welch Allyn's alarm notification system announced at HIMSS.

Okay, let's get a grip and look at the MedTab's short comings. The display is an innovative "E-Ink high contrast, low power “digital paper” display." As you can see in the picture on the right, the display is very readable. Unfortunately, here is no backlight so using this on the night shift will be kind of hard - maybe the night shift could wear LED headlights.

The display size itself is sort of a "tweener" - bigger than a PDA (by a long shot) and smaller than a desktop display. Consequently, applications will have to be tweaked to be readable on the MedTab by the average 40-something nurse - slapping a desktop app normally deployed on a 17 inch display will not work. Here are some more product details:

MedTab provides Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) which has been modified to be an OS shell and presents itself in kiosk mode. Thus, the device is secure from user tampering and the entire screen is available to the backend system. MedTab uses WinCE as its OS which most vendors support if they have a custom client. The most common customer client is Citrix which supports WinCE.

Unlike PDA or Ultra PCs, MedTab offers the screen size and resolution necessary to view and update EMRs. Unlike Tablet PCs, MedTab is small and light enough to carry in a lab coat pocket.

Beyond this, MedTab will last a whole shift (12 hours) without recharging, is rugged and can be disinfected. MedTab offers the possibility of a single sign-on system since its software configuration and provisioning are controlled by the IT department and not the end user.

MedTab is lockdown and as such, the end user can not configure or modify its software or use it for any purpose other than what the IT department has configured it for. MedTab is easily provisioned remotely over a secure, wired LAN line or wirelessly over state of the art 802.11 security protocols which is configure remotely.

A stolen device represents little risk to security since the system is locked down, and it’s possible to monitor its position and know if it’s leaving a designated area.

Unlike a UMPC (ultra mobile PC) running Windows XP, getting applications to run on the MedTab will take a bit more effort due to the Win CE OS, browser configuration and "lock-down" features.

A device with battery life that will cover a 12 hour shift is fantastic. To work on a nursing unit, you'll need one MedTab per RN, and 2 batteries for each device. On a big unit you could have 12 or 15 nurses on the day shift, for a maximum of 30 batteries. One of my pet peeves is battery charging systems, and nothing is mentioned about what you do with your 15 spares that have to be charged for the next shift.

There's plenty of business development work to be done on Emano Tec's part before they're ready for prime time. Just imagine though, loading a wireless VoIP client on the MedTab (with a Jawbone Bluetooth headset) along with alarm notification, messaging, worklists, and an RTLS (real time location system) that shows the location of your patients and the closest unused (clean and operational) infusion pump on a floor plan? And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Sweet.