In Healthcare Communications, One Device Does Not Fit All � Yet | Page 2

The iPhone factor is a significant one, as users exposed to such elegant consumer products are now asking for that type of user experience within their place of business. The drumbeat may be relatively low now, but as devices like the iPhone, the new Palm Pre, the BlackBerry Storm, and smartphones based on Google's Android platform proliferate more widely in the consumer realm, we will be hearing more from these consumers who will not tolerate the organization's inability to provide them with the tools necessary to do their jobs.

And we're talking functionality here, not just geek-chic appeal.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the iPhone. However, given usability and ergonomic issues, security concerns, lack of a ruggedized form factor, ongoing carrier costs, and the lack of the right integrated applications for mobile caregivers, it's simply not practical for hospitals today —and is not likely to be anytime soon. And right now Apple, Palm and RIM are more focused on consumers than on the rough and tumble world of healthcare IT.

Why One Device Won't Suffice
Mobility challenges in healthcare are more significant than most people want to admit. From propagating a quality signal within complex multi-site campuses, to managing rampant RF energy from every imaginable source, to mitigating the significant deficiencies of decidedly not medical grade wireless networks, to the actual ergonomics of using any of these devices while gowned and gloved, or tending to patients, the hospital environment is much, much different than that of the home or coffee shop. And much work still needs to be done before vendors can deliver reliable, non-latent, hospital-ready communications that combine voice, data, and applications, over both local and wide area networks.

Hospitals also need to do some work. Organizational leaders need to strategize first about what the hospital's needs are, and look to find solutions that address those needs. In an industry like healthcare, where risk is embedded into all communications, to do less makes an organization vulnerable.

So to the healthcare communications task force teams out there doing their due diligence, beyond asset management and procurement issues, here are some things to think about:

1. Usability matters. A NICU nurse whose hands are busy diapering a baby has very different needs than someone dispatching code teams, or an anesthesiologist. In pointing out the difference between purpose-built healthcare devices like those from Ascom, Vocera or Cisco (and say a BlackBerry or an iPhone), Emergin's Vice President of Sales, Moe Kirk, made a great point about "buttonology" in the meeting. Visualize code team members fumbling for the Chiclet-sized keys on a BlackBerry Bold when needing to respond to an emergency situation. When seconds matter, better to have a single button push on a Vocera badge, or a simple soft key on an Ascom Medic handset.

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