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Visiting nurses play a critical role in the health care system. They’re vital links between patients and practitioners and can make the difference between life and death for home-bound patients. Yet not only must these nurses follow the same electronic health record (EHR) requirements as their office-bound colleagues, they also have additional administrative tasks to perform.
Yet all is not lost. The right technology can make all the difference to a nurse making calls, whether they need computers, specialised medical equipment, phones or other gear. Laptop PCs remain at the heart of their requirements; here are some key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating and procuring laptops for mobile nurses.
The ideal laptop is as small and light as is practical (i.e. without compromising on keyboard and display size). Visiting nurses must keep in their vehicles all their regular equipment as well as emergency medical gear – and they need to carry it from place to place when attending a patient. This makes a large, unwieldy laptop impractical at best and an outright impediment at worst.
Convertible laptops may be an excellent choice for visiting nurses. These combine the functionality of a laptop and a tablet in one device, usually by combining a touch screen and a fold-back or detachable keyboard. Because healthcare record-keeping combines filling out electronic forms with longer-form records of visits, these hybrid machines can be ideal.
Of course, they’re larger and heavier than tablets, and usually more expensive than more conventional laptop designs, but their versatility and suitability for the job often makes the trade-offs worthwhile.
Data lies at the heart of this factor. One of the reasons many visiting nurses embraced tablets early on is that they didn’t have to learn complex data synchronising processes – tablet sync tends to be a one-button affair. Given that most visiting nurses have significant workloads and many demands on their time, there is a natural reluctance to learn new tasks just for the purpose of keeping records. This means that for IT managers, the options are:
Different organisations will find different answers to these, but one thing to note is that, if using Wi-Fi, you should deploy a virtual private network (VPN) to protect the private data being transmitted.
Many organisations and their mobile staff have selected tablets as their platform of choice because they are light, portable, and easy to synchronise with the organisation’s central systems. Yet the right laptop – one that’s light, convenient, and part of a well-designed and well-secured communications system – can provide greater functionality with only a small weight and complexity penalty. If you can find the model that fits your nurses’ workloads, work patterns and other needs, you’ll have their gratitude.
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