RDNS takes to the road with high-spec ultrabooks

RDNS has recently undertaken a refresh of its mobile computing device deployment, rolling out a new range of lightweight devices with improved battery life and several layers of connectivity to ensure the absolute minimum in downtime for nurses.

RDNS has used mobile devices for well over a decade and was one of the pioneers of mobile computing at the point of care in Australia. In 2009, it took a similar refresh and rolled out a series of Fujitsu notebooks and tablets.

This year, it has undertaken what RDNS Victorian general manager Fiona Hearn estimates is about the fifth refresh since it began using mobile computers about 10 or 12 years ago. The new devices are Lenovo Helix convertible ultrabooks, which allow the nurses to use them as a tablet but also with a keyboard for easier data entry.

RDNS project manager Owen Smith said the most important element in choosing a device was its connectivity capability.

“We are trying to keep the weight down, battery life up and connectivity as broad ranging and as extensible as possible,” Mr Smith said.

“We have a lot of lessons that we have learned through the years, especially around connectivity, so we are quite sharply focused on getting right down to specific protocols that the modem should have, especially for outlying areas were the signal strength is very poor.

“That was one key – we wanted to be able to have live online acquisition of data in as many homes as possible. That's the end game.”

Mr Smith said RDNS had over-specced the devices to ensure reliability. They all have a minimum of an Intel i5 processor with some high-end application devices having an i7.

“There is an onboard 3G modem so they are all SIM-based and equipped with data plans, so there is connectivity anywhere that Telstra has a network,” he said.

“That is the sort of spec that we wanted. 4G is not as important to us, as while it has good speed it has poor coverage. We are more concerned with what is called a '3.5G' technology, HSDPA-DC. That is a dual carrier technology and allows the device to connect to two adjacent cell towers at the same time. That increases your chances of getting a signal in marginal areas.”

The detachable dock in the device has a secondary battery, and it also allows users to keep the dock on charge while the tablet is being used. Ms Hearn said nurses need to be able to charge the device in their vehicle, so the rapid charging capability of the device has been a great advantage.

It is also essential to nurses who are constantly on the road and rarely come back to base during the day, Mr Smith said.

“When vendors come to talk to RDNS, invariably they are amazed at how mobile RDNS is,” he said. “A lot of sales organisations think they have road warriors but they pale when they see that the nurses have 30 minutes of office time in an eight-hour day and the challenges are broad ranging.

“It's not people going from city office to city office with 4G at their fingertips. It is quite the opposite – it is going into the most difficult environments.”

Full-time nurses and those who work for more than 20 hours a week are given the device, while part-timers often share a device. There is also an agreement with the vendor that a broken device will be replaced within a day, and there are spare devices at each base in case of equipment failure.

The very tough specifications have been designed to ensure the device functions as a nurse needs it to, with minimum downtime through device failure.

The devices have 4G of RAM, which is enough to handle the quite extensive software and applications nurses need to use. Ms Hearn said the organisation had provided access to its Camillus electronic client record since it began using mobile computing.

“On the device we also have a system called Gemino and that is a way of capturing information and holding it if the device were to go down, so we don't lose client data,” she said.

Mr Smith said Gemino acted like a store-and-forward application, so if there is a momentary loss of connectivity, all of the data is kept locally and is sent when a connection is re-established. Ms Hearn said nurses also had the ability to use the system locally and turn on the signal only when they need to in order to save battery life.

“The staff have access to the full client record and we have a separate software for rostering staff called RosterOn that interfaces into the client record,” she said. “We have a central hub – our Customer Service Centre that is our telehealth hub – where they are able to receive calls, see the live record, make changes and the staff get that in the home, so it is a very rapid exchange of information.

“In addition, the staff have the full compliment of Microsoft-based products, including Outlook, the internet and the intranet. RDNS has a very well-developed intranet with clinical pages, information about what we doing on wounds for instance.

“All of our policies and procedures are electronic which means that as we update our policy, I don't have to send paper out everywhere and worry about version control, because it is only available electronically. And essential for clinicians, we have the full fleet of drug information like MIMS.”

The next step is to investigate providing full telehealth capability through the devices. While RDNS has used high-end video conferencing suites like those provided by Polycom and Cisco, Mr Smith said he was investigating using WebRTC for mobile telehealth, as it can be used with the main internet browsers.

For the full story on RDNS and its mobile computing program, and its plans for telehealth, see the May issue of Pulse+IT magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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