Pen Lab Review
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At a time when most healthcare computer systems already are outdated, impending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
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,