Although medical carts with wheels have been present in hospitals and the medical field since the early 1950s, computers have revolutionized the medical industry in the last decade or so. Now, with COWS, nurses, physicians and other medical staff can much more easily document a patient’s status, dispense medication, and manage almost all aspects of patient care.

What is a COW and What is it Used For?

Computers on Wheels, or COWS, give medical professionals and hospital staff a streamlined way to provide patient care and medical attention. Since the federal mandates for electronic health records (EHR) went into effect in 2014, hospitals have enacted many different strategies to achieve compliance with FDA guidelines.

Some institutions use wall-mounted computers and tablets, however, computers on wheels are proving to be the most cost-effective and flexible solution to the technological and medical revolution.

Who Uses COWs?

Most healthcare workers can benefit by using a computer on wheels. COWs help doctors streamline the way they diagnose and treat patients.

COWs enable everyone involved in a particular patient’s care to instantly record any reported or observed side effects to medication and update records at a patient’s bedside. Computers on wheels have improved the state of patient care where hospitals have begun using them.

In addition to nurses and doctors, some others for whom COWS can help improve their work:

  • Medical Assistants
  • Physical Therapists
  • Radiology Techs
  • Home Health Aide
  • Surgical Techs
  • Pharmacists
  • Dietitians

COWS also allow other healthcare workers to remain in close communication among themselves. A nurse or technician can easily report side effects observed or reported at a patient’s bedside.

Healthcare workers may need to ask a doctor for medical advice pertaining to one of their patients. The doctor, from a remote location, can instantly access the most up-to-date information about the patient by using a COW. He or she can prescribe medications and check possible drug interactions and provide appropriate medical advice.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 initiated the revolution of healthcare through the use of computers. Additionally, this act would pave the way for the use of computers on wheels by many healthcare institutions.

This act called for the requirement of all public and private healthcare institutions to adopt and maintain the use of electronic medical records. To ensure compliance, the act specified monetary penalties to hospitals that did not comply with the changes by January 2015.

Computers on Wheels Minimize Technology Costs for Modern Healthcare Facilities

In order to satisfy requirements for EHR equipped technology, accessibility became a priority. The healthcare industry made big investments into computers and technology not only to ensure compliance but to provide staff with user-friendly equipment.

That being said, Computers on Wheels allow nurses and doctors to literally transport their computer with them everywhere they go. This allows for ease of access throughout each patient interaction not only for the nurse but for each care provider that makes contact with the patient that day. This factor alone shows that COWs are a cost-effective option and may minimize technology costs for modern healthcare facilities.

Computers on Wheels Streamline Workflow for Care Providers

A typical patient interaction for care providers used to consist of making contact with the patient, then returning to a stationary workstation to make notes, document changes, order medications, etc. This could happen several times throughout the day. COWS allows for all of these steps to happen at the same time, eliminating the provider’s need to go back and forth. They allow for instant access to patient information, which saves time and reduces the risk of error.

In addition, COWs can be used for several things:

  • Access the healthcare center’s internal network
  • Retrieve test results and imaging
  • Permit the care provider to discuss these with the patient on the spot.

COWs can minimize trips to supply and medications closest as well. The nurse just needs to arrange the cart before shifts accordingly.

Computers on Wheels Reduce Errors and Improve Patient Safety

An important feature of computers on wheels is the reduced risk of record-keeping errors and an increase in patient safety. In the past, a nurse or physician assistant would have to walk from the patient’s room to their stationary workplace. The healthcare worker would have to rely on memory or hastily written notes when entering data into the patient record.

Now, with computers on wheels, they can make notes and changes to records on the spot with the patient. This reduces the chance of error or that the care provider may forget an important detail. It also improves patient satisfaction because medical staff spend more time at the patient’s bedside.

In addition, computers on wheels are often equipped with a scanning device. The scanning device allows the nurse practitioner or doctor to scan a patient’s wristband and verify that the correct medication is given to the proper patient. This increases patient safety and reduces the number of errors due to incorrect dispensing of medication.

Computers on Wheels Promote Patient Engagement

Often times in the busy world of healthcare, patient engagement gets neglected. Improved healthcare outcomes and following proper protocol are often the outcomes of sincere patient engagement.

Computers on wheels streamline the healthcare providers’ workflow which allows for more time to converse with the patient. In addition, with the patient’s records available on the mobile workstation, the healthcare provider can easily access these and share and discuss information with the patient.

Computers on Wheels Reduce Bacterial Infection

With stationary workplaces, you were never quite sure who would be using your computer throughout the day. This meant the sharing and spreading of germs.
With advancements in both the medical and technological fields, COWs are a great way to prevent the spread of germs.

Many hardware devices are now manufactured with anti-microbial coatings. In addition, you are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting your workstation throughout the day, and the number of unknown interactions with your workspace becomes more easily monitored.

Computers on Wheels Allow for Increased Patient Confidentiality

In the past, patient records were kept in files and printed or written on paper. This posed the risk of a breach of confidentiality. Today, with the advancements in medical technology, paper records and file systems are no longer necessary.

Healthcare facilities have the opportunity to customize their mobile computer stations, utilizing technologies such as fingerprint scanning, password encryption, and even retina and facial recognition. This technology not only increases patient confidentiality, but it reduces the risk of breach of personal patient information.

Computers on Wheels Outperform other Technologies in Healthcare IT

Stationary or wall-mounted computers and tablets are certainly beneficial in the healthcare industry, however, computers on wheels clearly outperform these technologies for several reasons. Ease of access when it comes to compliance with the mandates of electronic health records is a top priority.

In contrast with stationary computers and bulky tablets, COWs are mobile and ergonomic. They have the capacity for larger and more powerful batteries that may last an entire working shift or longer. They have the ability to be transported to each patient and provide ease of access when it comes to patient medications and records.

Computers on Wheels have Swappable Battery Systems

One of the biggest drawbacks to computers on wheels in the past has been their source of power. The answer to this has recently been hot-swappable batteries. This means that the computer stays on while the low-power batteries are swapped for fully charged ones. The result is uninterrupted, higher-quality care.

Final Thoughts

It is well known that the regulatory environment of the medical field is constantly changing. The most successful healthcare institutions realize the importance of making an investment in technology that streamlines care and therefore reduces cost.

In addition to saving time and money, it is clear that computers on wheels improve patient safety and encourage engagement. The EHR mandate of 2014 has ensured that healthcare facilities comply and bring their practices up to speed for ease of access to patient records and points of care.

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