My colleague Robert Scoble has a post on his Blog about the use of COWs (computers on wheels) at Stanford. Apparently, Robert thought this was rather progressive use of technology in a healthcare setting. Indeed, the COW approach is common in many of today's hospitals. The solution originally came into play because clinicians had a need for mobility but laptops didn't provide enough battery power to last through an entire shift. Also, early "portable" computers tended to be too heavy to lug around for very long. So, the solution was to bolt a computer to a cart on wheels with a really beefy battery at its base thereby solving the mobility, weight and power issues all at once.
These days there are plenty of other alternatives, but COWs persist because they meet the work-flow requirements of a highly mobile clinical workforce wanting access to data at the point of care. However, other solutions are emerging that are also quite attractive.
One of those trends is to supply each patient bed with a flat-screen device that serves not only as point of care interface for clinicians, but also serves the patient's need for information, communication, education, services, and entertainment including HDTV, movies, video games and more.
This morning I met with a Swiss company (QualiLife/QualiMedical) that is doing some really good work in this space using a full suite of Microsoft's best solutions and technologies. Their self-contained bedside units provide everything the busy clinician or hospital patient could want. They've also designed a unqiue and intuitive user-interface. Regardless of age, education, or physical ability anyone can use it. In fact, one of this company’s real strengths is designing computer solutions and software that the elderly, infirmed or people with any kind of disability can use to the fullest extent. They include every imaginable data input and control option available.
Soon, I expect to see robust yet relatively inexpensive devices powered by Windows XP, Windows XP Embedded or Windows XP Media Center Edition showing up in hospitals around the world and in other places too; like kitchens, living rooms or bedrooms, where people need simple, low maintenance yet powerful tools for communication, collaboration, education, entertainment, security, monitoring, and access to services. For seniors, the disadvantaged, people with disabilities and others on the digital divide, this can’t come soon enough. And for patients in the hospital? They just might never want to leave!
Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences