Pen Computing Issue #5

June/July 1995

Pen Lab Review

Zenith CruisePad

Allows you to walk around while having full access to your desktop computer or office network.

At a time when most healthcare computer systems already are outdated, impending legislation is about to force increasingly complex digitial reporting requirements on healthcare organizations. This translates into an expanding workload for physicians, who already must work within ever more stringent budgetary constraints. To remain competitive, innovative administrators are looking for ways to maximize physicians' productivity while minimizing costs.
Physicians are very mobile within their work environment. They cruise the corridors, moving in and out of rooms while they attend to their patients. They also constantly record and retrieve vital patient information to and from a myriad of sources. The time required for all this limits the physician's ability to focus attention on the patient.
What's the solution? Providing each physician with continual access to desktop workstations is too confining and expensive. Instead, they need a device that allows them to move about freely, while still allowing input and retrieval of information.
The innovative minds at Zenith Data Systems have designed what I consider the ultimate solution-the Zenith CruisePAD. This appropriately named device is a lightweight (3.2 pound) tablet computer that provides remote mobile computing by wirelessly accessing a desktop PC or network server. The Cruise-PAD consists of an 8.5 inch backlit monochrome LCD screen that acts as a interactive window to its host. It is operated either with a pen or an on-screen touch-sensitive keyboard. Wireless connection is handled by a 2.4 Ghz spread-spectrum radio transmitter that sends and retrieves commands to and from its host PC directly or through networked access points. Despite the wireless connection, display update is instantaneous. and the experience is that of sitting at your desktop PC. But with the CruisePad, the user has the freedom to roam about anywhere within the transmitter's range, without interfering with telemetry monitoring devices at all. Data security is facilitated through a unique digital scrambling technique; a user definable ID and password provide access.
To wirelessly communicate with a host computer, a CruisePADit must be equipped either with a Zenith CruiseLAN/ISA card or a CruiseLAN/PCMCIA card. There also are CruiseLAN/AccessPoints for networks.
The CruisePAD has its own onboard proprietary software. It comes with two 3.5-inch disks, one containing the host and access software, and the other containing software for your particular device configuration. If you have any problems with installation or require troubleshooting, Zenith provides a 24-hour toll free technical support line. There also is a guaranteed 48 hour turnaround time for mail-in repairs.
The CruisePAD's shape and ergonomics are comfortable and accommodating. Upon power-up, the unit searches for connection sources and displays a list of those within reach. Select one, and the monitor shows what's on the host's screen. From that point on, the operator has complete control over the host.
There are nine control icons on the screen that enable the operator to place the CruisePAD in hibernation, alter setup routines (video, contrast), access an onscreen keyboard, toggle the speaker, swap mouse buttons, release control of the host, and create macros. A small LCD window at the top indicates connection, communication status, battery life, mouse, and speaker settings.
The rechargeable NiMH battery allows over three hours of uninterrupted use. In conjunction with the hibernation feature, I was able to obtain well over four hours' use. I recharged the battery to full capacity in one to two hours using the included fast-charge AC adapter recharger. (Another option that will be available soon is a multi-battery recharger station for sites with multiple CruisePADs.)
At the emergency department where I practice, I used the ISA version of the CruisePAD connected to a 66Mhz Pentium PC with 16 MB RAM, a quad-speed CD-ROM, and a fax/modem running a prototype Windows emergency room patient management program. While bedside, I'm able to interview and examine the patient and simultaneously enter data into my desktop computer via the CruisePAD. I can retrieve patient vital signs, laboratory and X-ray results, as well as view real time EKG monitoring from patients elsewhere within the hospital. For complex patient diagnoses, I can use the CruisePad to dial up an on-line medical library through my desktop computer's modem. I also can access my desktop's medical CD-ROM library while visiting with a patient. Prior to admitting or discharging a patient, I can review drug interactions, create instructions, update anatomical illustrations, and write and print prescriptions. If necessary, I can print charts for later pickup in my office, and I even can send faxes.
During my evaluation of the Zenith CruisePAD, I found very few glitches. Most of the problems involved disconnections due to my roaming beyond the 500 foot transmission radius. These can be resolved by strategically placing network access points throughout the hospital building. Also, when I walked into our lead-encased radiology department I was unexpectedly severed from the host. Fortunately, the data was saved and safely maintained on the host PC, another advantage of using the CruisePAD.
The power of the host PC and its software applications combined with the mobility of the CruisePAD can benefits emergency rooms, hospital wards, and practitioners' offices. Computerized patient records reduce medical costs by improving the accuracy of patient charting and replacing illegible handwritten records and prescriptions. Likewise, computerized records decrease risk, expedite care, reduce physician tasks, and eliminate paperwork processing costs by transmitting information electronically to insurance carriers.
I like the CruisePAD for other reasons, too. Unlike non-connected mobile computers, if the CruisePAD ever gets lost, stolen, or broken, all the sensitive medical data is secure and intact on the host PC, because the CruisePAD is nothing but a window to the host. And with a suggested retail price of $1,399.00 it is a much more economical solution than installing desktop PCs throughout the hospital.
Is the CruisePAD the perfect solution for healthcare personnel? It comes close. My wish list includes a color screen and a voice input option. I'd also like a serial port so I can attach the portable 12-lead EKG and blood pressure cuffs that I presently use on my desktop PC. All in all, the Zenith CruisePAD provides the power, ease of use, and resources of my desktop computer while I'm cruising down the hall.

O. Joseph Bruni, M.D. is an attending physician at the emergency medicine department of Massapequa General Hospital-Seaford, NY, and Midisland Hospital-Bethpage, NY.