Panasonic updates its Mobile Clinical Assistant, drops price

Panasonic has updated its CF-H1 Toughbook, a tablet computer designed specifically for clinical settings. As with its predecessor, the CF-H1 MkII has been built upon Intel’s ‘Mobile Clinical Assistant’ (MCA) reference design, which specifies the types of hardware functionality that can be leveraged in healthcare environments.

As with other devices in the Toughbook range, the CF-H1 MkII sports a ruggedised construction. The crash resistance of the device is tested to military standard MIL-STD810G, which requires that it be capable of withstanding a drop of 180cm while operational, a height double that of the first iteration of the product.

As is increasingly common in the recently revitalised tablet computer market, the CF-H1 MkII does not feature a keyboard, with users instead interacting with the device via its 10.4 inch touch screen using either a stylus pen or their finger. Like its predecessor, the screen has a resolution of 1024x768 pixels and is designed to be viewable in direct sunlight.

The device weighs around 1.5kg and sports an integrated handle for easy transportability.

The CF-H1 MkII is powered by two batteries, both of which can be swapped out of the device without it having to be shut down or put in sleep mode. With its fanless construction and the low power requirements of its Intel Atom processor (running at 1.86GHz), Panasonic claim the device is capable of operating for six hours before a recharge or battery swap is required.

The device has been designed in such a way as to make it conducive for disinfection to clinically acceptable standards using typical cleaning products commonly found in healthcare settings. To assist the user to do a thorough job of disinfecting the device, a packaged software application can be run on the CF-H1 MkII that works in conjunction with its touch sensitive screen to visually demonstrate which parts of the screen have been wiped down, and more importantly, the areas that haven’t. Software can also remind the healthcare facility’s staff to disinfect the device at regular intervals.

The CF-H1 MkII integrates both a finger print reader and a contactless smart card reader, both of which can be used to authenticate healthcare professionals to clinical systems and desktop environments that support such access controls.

Also included in the CF-H1 MkII is RFID technology for wireless interaction with compatible tags, a technology increasingly being used for both patient record management, and management of patients themselves. The device can be configured with an optional 2D barcode reader, making it suitable for the majority of Australian healthcare facilities that have not yet widely deployed RFID systems.

The CF-H1 MkII includes Bluetooth technology for wireless communication with peripheral devices, and wireless network technology (a/b/g/n) to allow users to remain connected to their healthcare facility’s network whilst moving between patients and administration areas. Wireless 3G broadband technology can also be integrated into the device, allowing healthcare professionals to achieve Internet connectivity anywhere mobile phone reception is available. The device can also be configured with an integrated GPS unit, which can be used, for example, to assist the user when conducting home visits, or to allow healthcare facilities to dynamically track the location of their MCAs.

To give healthcare professionals the opportunity to quickly take photos and include them in patient records, the device features an integrated 2 megapixel camera and two LED lights to maximise picture quality. However along with many of the CF-H1’s other value added features, the ability for photos to be seamlessly integrated into a patient’s record will be dependent on the ability of the organisation’s clinical software to integrate with MCAs.

In its default configuration, the CF-H1 MkII ships with 2GB RAM (up from 1GB) and an 80GB 1.8 inch hard drive, however the device can be customised to include solid state drive (SSD) technology to improve performance and add further robustness to the MCA.

Assisted by the strong Australian dollar, the device features a RRP of $3899AUD, which is $1100 cheaper than the debut price of first version of the CF-H1, which was announced in June 2009.

Comparisons with the Apple iPad, which retails from $629AUD, are inevitable, particularly after some high profile bulk purchases of the device by healthcare organisations in Australia, against the backdrop of worldwide sales of over seven and a half million units in just six months. And Apple is far from the only other vendor that retails products healthcare organisations looking to mobilise their clinical and nursing workforce need to consider. A plethora of tablet computing devices have been announced in recent months, including the HP Slate 500 (RRP $799USD) and the diminutive Telstra T-Touch (RRP $299AUD), which were both launched in the last week of October.

When asked about the impact the recent emergence of these devices will have on Panasonic’s plans for its CF-H1 MkII, Mark Wallis, Toughbook Group Manager highlighted the product’s targeted focus on healthcare environments and the positive impact Apple’s marketing clout will deliver the entire tablet computing sector.

“Touchscreen technology is not new to us and we have had this technology for some time. Apple, by virtue of their size and nature, will yell to the crowds that touchscreen is great technology, and that’s a good thing for all of us. In terms of actual usage, you’ll only need to drop a couple [of iPads] and perceptions will change.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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