HIPAA and patient safety were hot topics at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society show in New Orleans earlier this month, but two new wireless handheld tools stood out among the offerings of a HIMSS-record 675 vendors.
One eye-catching new device for the electronic medical records market was the WinPad computerized clipboard from Tremont Medical of Aston, Pa.
Another was the Accompli 009, a mobile communications trifecta from Motorola of Schaumburg, Ill. The Accompli 009 is a combined personal digital assistant, wireless Internet access port and cell phone no bigger than a tin of Altoids mints. Software developer M2Verticom of Atlanta had its WirelessMD prescription writing system loaded onto the Accompli for a preview at HIMSS.
Neither device is on the market yet, though both vendors promise their products will be on sale in late summer.
The Tremont WinPad was designed specifically for EMR applications, says Joe Clayton, director of handheld products. Clayton says development started about five years ago by computer maker Data General, now a division of EMC of Hopkinton, Mass. After the Data General acquisition, EMC was about to roll out the device in late 1999 and was "literally one day away from triggering deployment when (it) made the decision to stop production" so EMC could focus on its main business of data storage, Clayton says.
EMC sold the device last year to Tremont, an 8-year-old company that sells healthcare computer terminals on wheeled carts to hospitals, according to Tremont President Todd Alexander. The WinPad gives Tremont a device for the ambulatory care market, he says.
The WinPad resembles a clipboard, and though a bit hefty at just under three pounds, it is lighter than the Fujitsu 3400 or Vadem Clio wireless computers that dominate the EMR market. WinPad's irregular shape, with a number of strategically placed curves and bulges, makes it easier to hold than either competitor.
The WinPad has a full keyboard, which, when the computer is placed on a desk or table, rests at a low angle to facilitate typing. "The idea was if you were going to provide a carry device, (users) wanted all of the modes of display and input," Clayton says.
The WinPad also has an onboard voice recorder for dictation and an optional digital camera to add photos of patient wounds to the EMR.
Kane St. John, chief operating officer of EMR maker JMJ Technologies of Marietta, Ga., saw the WinPad at HIMSS. He liked its size and keyboard but noticed a few design flaws. St. John says he was unimpressed with the image quality from the digital camera and noticed "the camera built into the back in a sort of half sphere made the unit rock back and forth when I tried to type."
Alexander, Tremont's president, says both faults in the prototype will be remedied before final production.
Gary Coltek, chief executive officer of M2Verticom, kept close watch on his Accompli 009 at HIMSS. Coltek says he has 4,800 customers signed up for his WirelessMD service delivered on handheld PDAs and is sure many physicians will switch to the Accompli when it comes out. The company is considering an initial order of 6,000 units from Motorola.
WirelessMD services to be offered on the new device include script writing, formulary check, lab test results viewing and up-to-the-minute FDA drug alerts.
Nonclinical services include a personal calendar, e-mail, a 150-character messaging service, Web browser and phone.
Coltek says the device will download e-mail and Web images as fast as a computer with a 56k modem. The company says the service will cost about $95 a month, including air time but excluding the cost of purchasing the Accompli 009.
Motorola has the Accompli 009 running in test mode in Chicago but has held up mass deployment until summer to give national wireless carriers time to more widely install a new communications link called Global Packet Radio Switch (GPRS), says Jo Posti, a Motorola spokesperson. GPRS will enable the Accompli 009 to run at high speed on the Internet.
"It's almost like having a DSL line on your hip," Posti says. She says the Accompli 009 will sell for about $600.