healthcare data security

The Importance of Security and Medical Grade Hardware

On May 14th, Simon Pope, a director at the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote a blog post urging users of older Windows operating systems to install security patches on their computers and take steps to secure themselves from a known vulnerability that could be exploited and result in worm infections and/or cyber attacks. The remote code execution vulnerability was discovered in the Remote Desktop Services on versions older than Windows 8. This warning arises from the lessons of the 2017 “WannaCry” ransomware attack. Those attacks were highly destructive even though a Windows security patch for it had been available for months. WannaCry affected thousands of computers worldwide, bringing down hospital networks and causing the cancellation of over 19,000 medical appointments.

It seems incredible that a hospital’s IT staff would overlook such crucial updates, but it’s an unfortunate reality for many medical companies. Another problem is that many facilities don’t upgrade their hardware often enough to be able to run newer versions of Windows, and much of their computer inventory is not of a medical grade. Cost and budget constraints tend to be the reason for lack of security or hardware updates, but as seen with the WannaCry attack, the results can be more catastrophic to a hospital and its ability to service patients.

medical grade computers

Tangent offers thirteen different types of medical grade computers that can be customized to suit the needs of any medical facility. A multi-year analysis of cost and return on investment will reveal that having up-to-date technology and safety measures will end up saving more for the hospital. With Tangent’s medical grade fanless touchscreen computers, one can be confident that infection and contaminants will not be spread amongst patients from the hospital’s computer equipment. The enclosures are protected from water ingress so that they may be disinfected thoroughly. Many are equipped with hot-swappable batteries or UPS internal batteries for continuous use of the system even during power outages. The medical computers are also equipped with the latest version of Windows to help keep the operating systems and data as safe as possible. The list of available options is truly impressive and allows hospitals to find the right fit for their requirements and budget, while also ensuring that they are doing everything they can to prevent cyber attacks and downtime.

cardiac arrest medical monitoring

Every Minute Counts with Cardiac Arrest

When cardiac incidents occur in a hospital, every minute that passes can be a factor in whether the patient survives or not. According to Heart.org, in 2016, only about 25 percent of U.S. patients survived when their hearts stopped in a hospital. With how busy medical staff are and the amount of alerts going off all the time, it often happens that a crucial one goes unnoticed for some time. For many hospital systems, the answer to this is to employ Central Monitoring Units (CMU). A CMU consists of nurses and clinicians at a remote site that watch patient vital signs on a computer and call hospital staff if they notice potential emergency situations like the onset of ventricular tachycardia. The end goal is give front-line hospital staff notice of serious cardiac events an hour or more before they happen. This is a challenging objective since the process is heavily reliant on medical technicians to identify key signals from massive data streams on hundreds of patients. However, even the short amount of notice they are able to give has been life saving in many cases already.

Fast data analysis and response from a remote clinician is possible only with fast medical computers to aid their efforts. A medical grade computer like Tangent’s E24B offers the performance, safety, and uptime required for a crucial job of this nature. Its 24” monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 allows for many monitors and applications to be displayed clearly to the medical technician, and the projected capacitive touchscreen makes working between application screens quick and efficient. The medical computer has an impressive 32GB of available memory, solid state drives, and is powered by the latest in Intel Core technology. One can be assured that many applications will  run at once without freezing or crashing. Continuous operation is paramount for staff monitoring patient cardiac activity, and so the E24B computer is designed with 3x hot-swappable batteries in case of power outages or if the station needs to be moved.

Medical Computer CMU

Advances in artificial intelligence will be the next step in improving monitoring and identifying patients in danger, but the human component will likely always be necessary in that process. A trained technician is important for providing the expertise and experience to make a judgement call. AI may certainly attain a human level of aptitude for patient monitoring, but for now medical computers best shine as a reliable support and data gathering tool. With enough ingenuity and creative use of technology, hospitals will be able to push that 25% cardiac arrest survival rate up much higher.  

EHR and patient care ready

EHR and Patient Care Ready

Epic Systems is world-renowned for their electronic health records software, but their portfolio has expanded to do much more than just maintain records in the patient care space. They understandably have specific system requirements for successful use of all their powerful features. The recommended screen resolution on a system running Epic is 1920×1080 with at 24” widescreen flat panel screen. That is a bit of a jump from the 22” monitors people normally use. Epic has so much to display on the screen that smaller monitors will require scrolling to see the entire work window. They also recommend a sixth generation Intel processor and 8GB of memory. A strong processor and ample memory is necessary to run the application at full bore without any freezing or slowness. A computer running this software will often be in a clinical setting and needs to be of a high quality and safety standard. All these requirements added up together points to a need for a medical grade PC to adequately handle the job. Let’s explore why that is.

Epic Logo

Medical grade computers like Tangent’s Medix T24B are purpose built for medical environments running memory intensive applications that must have reliable and near-constant uptime. From the performance side, the T24B guarantees fast and consistent functionality with up to 32GB of memory and an Intel Core i7 processor. From a hardware perspective, three hot-swappable batteries allows for up to 10.5 hours of uninterrupted run time in case of a power outage. This medical grade computer matches Epic’s requirements perfectly with a 24” wide multi-touch screen and 1920×1080 resolution. Being a medical grade all-in-one panel PC makes it space efficient, sleek, and professional looking. Patient data is efficiently entered as they work with their care provider and they can see that quality equipment is used at the facility.

 

Medix T24B Medical Computer

A medical grade PC also needs to promote health and safety in a medical facility. After all, computers are touched all day long by many hands, and the last thing anyone needs is for germs and bacteria to propagate and spread there. Like the T24B, Tangent’s C24 medical grade panel PC has an antimicrobial additive baked into its housing to reduce the growth and spread of contagion. The enclosure is sealed with an IP65 rating so that it may be properly wiped down and sanitized. A third, and often forgotten, safety precaution is confirmed by the device’s medical 60601 certification. This indicates that the computer is protected from electrical frequency leakage, making it safe to be used in close proximity to a patient. Running an EHR software suite with a stellar reputation on a powerful medical grade computer with built-in uptime assurance is a sure-fire path to a successful practice and satisfied, safe patients.

medical computers

Mobile Phone vs Medical Tablet: What’s Best in Healthcare?

Technology you encounter at hospitals can be a tad confusing or funny at times. You see million dollar state-of-the-art scanners and treatment machines, but then you also see a doctor walk by with a 90s style pager clipped to their pocket.

 

The reason for this is that they both suit their purpose best. The most up-to-date scanners do a better job of identifying anomalies and areas of concern, and the old pagers have a longer battery life and better signal strength than cell phones can get in hospitals. You also see hospital staff roaming around with medical tablets more often than mobile phones, although one would think that mobile phones do just as much for cheaper.

 

However, there’s quite a bit of thought that goes into the tablets used by medical professionals.

Most standard mobile phones like the iPhone are created for general consumer use for normal daily activities like making calls, using the internet, or taking photos. Medical grade tablets are designed specifically for use in healthcare facilities.

 

For example, the Tangent Medix T13 has a magnesium chassis that makes it 33% lighter than aluminum and offers high impact resistance. The surface of the medical tablet is treated with an antimicrobial surface that prevents the growth and/or spread of infection and germs, and it also keeps the enclosure material from degrading over time. You’re not likely to see a feature like that on a regular mobile device. Mobile phones are also susceptible to water damage even from minor contact with it. The T13 medical tablet is rated at an IP65 level of protection from dust, water, or contaminant intrusion into the computer. Mobile phone design is meant to be sleek and aesthetically pleasing to the consumer eye, but without a good case and screen protector, they are not long for this world. Tangent’s medical tablets are constructed with a rugged design that has good grip and protected against vibration and shocks from short drops.

 

The internals of the devices also have quite a few notable differences. While a mobile device’s battery can be recharged within an hour or so, hospital staff simply can’t wait that long. Tangent’s T13 medical tablet has hot-swappable batteries that can be switched out while maintaining continuity in power. That is a huge thing for patient care, and a big reason why many still carry those old pagers to get quick notifications. If you know Apple, then you know that they don’t customize their product or allow for repairs, even replacing the battery when it’s bad.  Tangent enjoys offering accessories and options on their products that best suits the needs of their clients. On the outside, the T13 has a kickstand and a hand strap for easy mobility and visibility. Inside, they offer a barcode scanner and/or RFID for asset tracking or locating patients. The details make everything about a medical tablet, which is why medical facilities invest in what works best for them.

 

A Medical Grade Family of Products

Medical Grade Family of Products

Integrating technology into hospital workflows has been massively transformational to a great many health care systems and providers.  An article from Healthcare IT News discusses how a hospital in New York was able to leverage technology to monitor patients and reduce transfers to the ICU by 63%. Staff at Saratoga Hospital were taking patients’ vital signs that were manually logged into the electronic health record to be assessed by nurses. This manual process made it slow and difficult for nurses to identify flags that a patient was deteriorating and needed intervention. Because of this, many patient’s states were degrading to the point of needing to go to the ICU. Through the use of the newly installed patient monitors, data was input directly into the EHR, reviewed by nurses with far more efficiency, and care was provided in a much more timely manner. With that, patient transfers to the ICU plummeted.

Patient monitors can come in a variety of applications and installations. Quite often you will see a mobile cart or a retractable swing arm on the patient’s room wall. In work areas, the PCs can be mounted directly onto the wall for ease of use in small offices. Mountable industrial PCs are versatile, modular, and powerful machines for both hospital and industrial settings. Tangent takes a holistic approach to providing whole project solutions for mountable industrial PC setups; they offer a variety of both industrial and medical computers, and mounting options for them to suit the unique requirements encountered at each patient care facility. Tangent offers easy fold IT stations, arm workstation systems, variable height mounting solutions, and monitor arms that can handle dual monitors. Tangent’s cart solutions range from top of the line, smartly featured, inductive charging mobile workstations, to lightweight, uncomplicated stands. Each product is tested to be durable, reliable, and versatile.

 

Medix C24 Medical Computer
Medix C24 Medical Computer

For hospital environments, a medical grade mountable PC is perfect to help ward off infection and provide features clinical settings most often desire. The C-series from Tangent ranges from 17” to 24”. With VESA mounting options, they can be installed on most any carts, arms, walls, or used with an optional stand as a desktop device. The same type of mounting options are available for many of Tangent’s industrial grade PCs. The computer in a clean room doesn’t need an antimicrobial coating as with the PCs in patient areas, it needs to be able to be washed with solutions and hot water for complete sterilization. Be it with patient monitoring systems or with automating hospital inventories, replacing manual processes with streamlined tech solutions is proven to create drastic improvements in safety, patient care stats, and efficiency.

 

coMING OF AGE

Coming of Age of a Medical Computer

Coming of Age of a Medical Computer

 

In the 1990s, the term “medical computer” didn’t mean much more than a PC in a doctor’s office, or computers set up specifically for order entry, medical database access, or patient surveys. The equipment itself wasn’t anything special or purpose built for the medical field. Nowadays, a medical grade computer is expected to provide clinical resources, constant uptime, and also protect patients and staff from the spread of infection. Mobile clinical carts use medical panel PCs for in-room patient care, staff use tablets to put in patient meal orders or pharmacy orders, and even the LCD monitors are of a certified medical grade.

 

Modern CDC guidelines require that medical computers be UL/IEC60601-1 certified after in-depth testing for safe use near patients, other medical equipment, and performance compliance. Antimicrobial coatings on medical computers have the capability to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes on their surface or surrounding environment. The antimicrobial agents are formulated for low toxicity, minimal environmental problems, and prolonged lifetime of the computer components the agent is applied to. Tangent’s medical computers are not only 60601 certified and antimicrobial, they are also IP rated to prevent ingress of water or contaminants. The Medix C24 medical computer has an IP65 front panel. It’s also loaded with I/O ports and mounting options so that it can be used for carts, arms, desktops, or anywhere it’s needed.

 

In addition to being suited to safety and sanitation needs, medical grade computers have to stay at the forefront of technological advances in order to serve ever-changing clinical requirements and advances. As soon as touchscreen technology became widely available, they started being integrated into medical devices and hospital workflows. Tangent’s M24T medical computer offers PCAP multi-touch, up to 32GB of memory, Intel Core processors, advanced graphics capabilities, and a built-in webcam. Why is a webcam important?  Telemedicine or “virtual visit” doctor appointments have become a popular alternative to in-person visits. Patients can conduct live video chats with a doctor 24-7 via web meetings. The M24T medical computer also has a UPS battery backup. If a doctor is meeting with a patient and the power goes out, the meeting can still proceed uninterrupted. Tangent’s computers are also validated to work well with popular EMR software packages like Cerner or Epic.

 

Medical computers have come a long way over the decades; they are safer, sturdier, more secure, and reliable than ever. Tangent’s industrial and medical PCs have far too many features to mention in one article, but they are all built to provide the most utility, versatility and value to its users.

 

serial ports blog

Serial Ports, A Dated Yet Necessary Feature

Serial Ports, An Included Legacy Component

With as much new technology that Tangent packs into their all-in-one medical computers, one does not expect to see any sort of legacy components included. However, if you look at the I/O ports on the back of the Tangent M24T medical computer, something surprising is present: three RS-232 DB9 ports. For those of us that are not polished up on our knowledge of every serial port that ever existed, the RS-232 is a standard computer serial port for communication that dates back about five decades, and was used for a wide array of purposes like connections to modems, printers, mice, data storage, circuit protection, connectors, optoelectronics, passive components, uninterrupted power supplies, and more. This is all fine and dandy, but the questions still stand. What are serial ports from the 60s doing on new computers? What does this have to do with medical standards? Why don’t they just solely use USB?

Well, simply put, medical devices have varying ways of providing data to computers. Most still have uncomplicated serial ports, while newer ones have HDMI, ethernet or USB ports, depending on the protocol being used for communication.  A true medical computer needs to be able to fit the requirements of each medical device it’s connected to, as well as the clinical workflows of the medical facility and that particular care center’s IT environment. And the old RS-232 interface is an attractive alternative to the more temperamental digital interfaces for many medical device manufacturers because it’s robust, consistent, and easy to use. The adage of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” applies heavily for the serial port standards in a great number of devices. Tangent’s dedication to providing convenience and value to medical care providers led to the inclusion of the trusted legacy ports. The M24T medical computer is able to connect to a kidney monitoring device, an ultrasound device, and a patient monitor using the serial ports, and still have 6 USB ports and an HDMI port free for other uses.

All the newer, fancy bells and whistles are bundled up into this incredible medical computer as well. It features a 24 inch PCAP touchscreen monitor, an Intel 6th generation Core i Series, fast memory up to 32GB, and high-performance NVMe storage. The M24T medical computer also has fanless cooling by way of heat pipes, it’s own internal speakers, and optional webcam and RFID. The medical computer has an uninterrupted power supply battery for up to 30 minutes of operation during a power loss event, and of course, is factory treated with an antimicrobial coating to ward off the spread of infection from bacteria or mold.

It’s easy to dismiss older technology as useless and disposable, but in the medical world, efficiency and consistency in the face of emergency situations often wins out over the new and questionable. Yes, strides are being made to upgrade older hospital systems to modern standards, but change in these sorts of environments can be slow. With so many devices still relying on legacy ports, it makes sense that medical computers still cater to their needs.

Is RFID Safe?

Is RFID Safe?

RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology has been found to generate considerable cost savings and increase efficiency in a variety of sectors like supply chain management, asset management, and information technology departments due to its ability to capture data without any human intervention.

 

Utilizing RFID in healthcare has been explored with great interest in recent years not only because of a legislative mandate to use new technology in healthcare, but for its potential to benefit patient safety, provide accurate patient and asset tracking, and enhance efficiencies in patient care. For example, RFID systems can identify medical staff, patients, medications, and blood sampling data all in real time.

 

The adoption of RFID in hospitals has been somewhat slow due to questions about data security, privacy, and concerns about radio frequency interruption due to older infrastructure in many facilities. However, apprehension about these risks largely stem from unfamiliarity with the technology and poor implementation strategies. These issues can be mitigated with in-depth analyses of risk/benefits, return on investment analyses, extensive testing prior to implementation, educating staff on the technology and its benefits, and taking steps for appropriate security measures to ensure patient privacy.

 

Tangent is well aware of the national mandate from the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Clinical Health) Act of 2015 to implement new health information technology and improve healthcare delivery. With that, they aim to stay at the forefront of technology that can be integrated into their medical devices.

medixt13

An excellent example is the Tangent Medix T13  medical tablet PC. This tablet is packed with a treasure trove of useful features for only being 13” inches. The enclosure is factory treated with a medical grade antimicrobial coating and is rated at an IP54 level of protection against contaminant or liquid ingress into the unit. The touchscreen is a PCAP multitouch, the computer’s Ultramobile processor can be an Intel Core i7, i5, or Celeron, and the unit has TPM 2.0 support.

 

The Medix medical tablet has a full-slot smart card reader and SD card readers. This allows for clocking in, secure logging in to the system, accepting payments and a great number of other uses with a card. An optional barcode scanner can allow for scanning of medications or patient wristbands. A  desktop charging cradle, wall and vehicle mounting accessories, and a handheld wrist strap for the T13 medical tablet provide numerous ways to interact with the device.

And keeping with the topic of this blog entry, an optional RFID reader in the T13 medical tablet allows hospital staff to identify, track, and retrieve data on most anything in the facility.

 

As hospitals and clinics are urged to adopt newer technologies by governing bodies, it’s important for providers to stay ahead of the curve on offering these features in their computing devices. Tangent’s mission is to provide medical care providers all the tools they need to give the best care and to stay up-to-date  with regulations and recommendations. When implemented correctly, technologies like RFID can create highly visible benefits to both patients and care facilities.

 

Antimicrobial Screens

The Antimicrobial Screen Advantage

Any surface can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs, and that is a particularly troubling fact when it comes to health compromised patients in hospitals. The CDC’s website states that about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.  Devices that are touched by both patients and doctors, like medical equipment and computers, can pose a significant risk of spreading contagions. Unlike a doorknob or a handrail, consumer computers and devices are sensitive to harsh cleaning and being exposed to liquids and abrasive cleaners.

 

Your standard LCD monitor is not protected against liquid ingress and will malfunction upon contact with it.  Luckily, antimicrobial surface treatment technology has become quite advanced and companies like Tangent are producing medical grade LCD monitors that are not only treated with antimicrobial coatings, they are also protected against water damage so that they may be appropriately cleaned in line with hospital regulations.

 

Antimicrobial surfaces mainly work to suppress the growth of bacteria and harmful microorganisms, and stop the spread of microbes. In addition to deterring bacteria, germs and molds, the coating also minimizes stains and degradation of plastic on the surfaces they are applied to. Antimicrobial agents come in a variety of types like chlorhexidine, ammonium compounds, and silver.  

Medical-Monitor

Tangent’s flagship 22 inch medical LCD monitor has a cast aluminum chassis, is factory treated with an antimicrobial additive to battle surface contamination, and is rated an an IP65 protection level against dust, cleaning liquids and water. Because of big initiatives to improve in sanitation, prevention, care quality, and overall awareness, data from CDC’s hospital healthcare-associated infection prevalence surveys show significant reductions in overall healthcare-associated infection prevalence and central line prevalence between 2011 and 2015. And speaking of the CDC, Tangent’s medical LCD monitor is EN60601-1 certified to be compliant with CDC guidelines for environmental infection control and isolation precautions.

 

This 22″ LED backlit medical LCD monitor features a 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen display, a PCAP 2-point touchscreen, and on screen display buttons for power, brightness, and auto tune. A variety of mounting options like point of care carts, movable arms, or desktop stands are possible with the VESA 75 mounting bracket. The Tangent medical LCD monitor also comes with integrated speakers, a feature not often seen on a monitor. With the success of antimicrobial agents on medical devices to help prevent the spread of pathogens in clinical settings, the technology is now being sought for use in a wider setting like businesses and homes. Wherever the demand may be, Tangent’s medical grade LCD monitor is up to the task.

himss19

Why the HIMSS Conference Matters

Medical practitioners have always sought to employ the best technology available to enhance their care and treatment of patients, but how do they go about learning what technology is available and specific to their field? From the development and testing of vaccines and drugs to ever-advancing medical equipment, information technology and healthcare go hand in hand, and that notion is especially promoted by a non-profit organization called HIMSS.

 

HIMSS aims to optimize healthcare through information technology by way of leadership, community building, information disbursement, driving public policy, professional and workforce development, and large events where members can learn and share ideas. HIMSS’ biggest event is their annual global conference and exhibition. For 2019, it is being held on February 11th through the 15th in Orlando, Florida. It is touted as the leading health information and technology conference, and will host around 45,000 professionals from over 90 countries to join in seminars, education, innovation and collaboration.

 

Topics at this year’s conference will include cybersecurity and privacy, patient engagement and digital health, health informatics education, interoperability, and innovation and venture investment. Outside of the conferences and seminars, the event will have over 1,300 health IT vendors in the exhibit hall.

 

Conferences and events of this nature are excellent sources of information regarding the importance of using top quality medical computer equipment and partnering with the right vendor to provide the best solutions. Tangent prides itself on being an award-winner solutions expert on medical equipment and services needs, both small and large.

 

Tangent representatives will be in attendance at the 2019 HIMSS Global Conference, and will be stationed in the exhibit hall at booth 3909, next to the Allscripts exhibit. The knowledgeable Tangent team will field questions pertaining to medical grade computing needs, cloud solutions, storage, and so much more. They can host demonstrations with sample products and provide guidance for general or customized needs. Visitors are encouraged to share their business’ challenges and requirements and see where Tangent can help them excel.