It is easy to forget how Covid-19 and social distancing have impacted the way hospitals work. But many have had to change their working methods to ensure better patient outcomes.

Here we will define Modern Mobility and what it means for healthcare and nursing as we push ahead into a post-Covid-19 world. Areas we will look at include:

Portability – the number of devices staff carry around the hospital.
Connectability – how the device connects to a service.
Implementation – deploying and training the staff.

Caregivers need to be able to perform scanning for patient verification, patient admission or specimen tracking anywhere in the hospital. This includes non-patient care areas. All without their uniforms and PPE loaded down with multiple devices.

Or being required to push a workstation on wheels around the floors, leaving the area cluttered with medical carts.

Smartphone barcode scanning is a solution. It ensures medical scanning compliance for critical workflows, does more to assist nurses helping patients, while keeping staff safe.

More importantly, it can improve nursing efficiency, freeing up staff to spend more time focused on 1-to-1 patient care.

Mobility is nothing new in hospitals. We know nurses can move around with devices, but they have to use a lot of them. So current working methods need to be reexamined, to improve patient safety by improving the nursing workload. Smartphone scanning is a simple and effective way to make nursing staff more mobile while consolidating multiple existing devices.

1. A scanning device should fit comfortably in a nurse’s pocket

It has been 15 years since cameras were introduced into mobile phones. Now, Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK supports over 20,000 device models.

Despite the advances in smartphone technology, many nurses still have to wheel around antiquated PCs if they want to do something as fundamental as barcode medication admin.

Yes, there are dedicated handheld Bluetooth scanners available. And while some dedicated scanning devices are described as ‘mobile computers’, they are still too bulky for staff who are often dressed in extremely lightweight uniforms.

Who wants an outdated ‘mobile computer’ – often downstream of the latest software – when you can have a smartphone.

Smartphones have evolved through the ultimate design lab – millions of hours of use. They are designed to be light, work simply, pack tons of processing power, and fit easily into a back pocket.

This is true whether it is a night on the town or someone is wearing a nurses’ uniform and saving people’s lives. Nursing is not like sitting at a desk – each shift can involve miles of walking. Carrying less will make caregivers more mobile and effective in patient care.

2. Connectivity is critical - it should work every time

We will never get rid of the Workstation on Wheels, but it has a limited use case in terms of Modern Mobility. Whatever is used instead, needs to connect seamlessly. If someone wants to upload an image or connect to a database from a device, the process should be as efficient as on a PC.

Sadly, many hospital dedicated handheld scanning devices can only connect through Bluetooth. Bluetooth was great technology when it was developed in the late-90s. But, although it has gone through a few iterations, it can still be temperamental. As anyone who has tried to connect to a car speaker will tell you.

Fortunately, the smartphone can connect in several different ways. This could be 4G, wifi, or even good old Bluetooth.

3. One scanning device per nurse

Now, more than ever, we need to have a one person – one device ratio. Sometimes nurses will have access to multiple devices and yes, smartphones are usually assigned per shift. But they remain with that user until the shift ends. Then they are sterilized.

Sharing during a shift increases the likelihood of infection transmission. This is true in other sectors like retail and field services, but it is especially true in healthcare. In this case, a dedicated device may need to be sterilized multiple times per shift.

Sharing handheld devices means extra time needs to be taken up sterilizing them

The only sensible alternative is a smartphone. Dedicated devices and mobile computers are too expensive to hand out to every single person.

Moreover, allowing the nurse to have their own device increases their agility, i.e. it is with them the whole time. And this allows them to personalize it to their own needs.

4. Scanning hardware should be able to do more than just scan

Right now, most nurses use a smartphone and a dedicated barcode scanner. But they only need to use a smartphone.

Hardware should be capable of doing more than one thing well, and it should be simple to use. This is nothing new. Someone else came up with a similar concept nearly 15 years ago.

“These are not separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it the iPhone. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone… We want to make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super easy to use.”
Steve Jobs launching the iPhone in 2007.

Right now, a lot of nursing staff have the latest iPhone. But many use it for just one thing – communication.

Hospital’s are huge places and being able to communicate is essential. But the smartphone can do so much more – such as high performance barcode scanning.

5. A device’s software should provide each team with its own solution

Maybe you are in the emergency room and want to manage barcode medication admin. Or blood care administration in pediatrics.

There is no one size fits all solution in a hospital. Different departments will have different needs and a scanning device should be able to handle whatever is thrown at it. Moreover, it should be easy for clinicians to understand.

People are used to handling smartphones. By nature, they are minimalist, familiar and user-friendly.

6. Scanning capability should never be less than 100%

Twenty years ago, barcode medication administration was first used in a US veterans hospital. Unwieldy scanning devices were the only game in town. Yet a lot has changed since then.

The reason why portable handheld scanning devices and Workstations on Wheels (WoWs) are so common in hospitals is that they make great barcode scanners. That is their job.

Scandit's Barcode Scanning SDK is effective

Our Barcode Scanner SDK uses the camera found on even the most basic mobile phones. Today, even basic smartphones utilise powerful processors and 4K cameras rivaling many dedicated cameras.

This enables superior scanning, whether in poor lighting conditions or of damaged barcodes at a distance. To see it for yourself, download a test app.

There are numerous benefits to using a high-performance scanning on the smartphone. For example, we have heard from nursing staff how it allowed them to scan a medication admin barcode in low-light while a patient was asleep. In the same situation, they would be woken by the light from the PC’s screen. This is just one example of how Modern Mobility can help nurses improve work performance.

7. Setup costs should be minimal

We are advocating a significant change in freeing up nursing staff and making them more effective and efficient. This seems like it should be expensive, but it does not need to be.

In reality, fewer devices will increase nursing efficiency and help staff do their job more effectively. And thus improve patient care.

Dedicated devices are also expensive. You can spend $3-$10K on a cart and $800-$1K on a PDA.

Many hospitals already equip their staff with smart devices, be it phones or tablets. But even if that is not the case, the total cost of ownership of a scanning-enabled smartphone substantially undercuts that of a dedicated scanner or mobile computer.

TCO of $150-$300 compared to the $700+ TCO of traditional scanning hardware

Scandit’s software delivers exceptional scanning performance at a fraction of the cost of dedicated scanners.

8. It should be simple to set up, implement, and introduce to staff

Ok, sometimes things are out of our control. IT projects can take time to deliver. That is just a fact of life – like trains being late.

But smartphone applications capable of scanning can be introduced in a short time. For example, take a look at our webinar with UCSF. It talks about how it implemented the entire Epic Rover smartphone solution in 14-days – from planning to staff using it on the floors.

In many hospitals, the hardware – i.e., the smart devices – is already being used for communicating.

Epic Rover, integrated with Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK, is simple to configure. In the webinar above UCSF outlines how it was able to develop the initial use cases for its application.

9. Patient care should not be delayed for a nurse to charge a scanning device

If a nurse is charging up a mobile dedicated device it means they are unable to care for patients.

Yes, for the wall-mounted workstation, a scanning device connected to a PC never runs out of charge. But that’s because – assuming they are working – they are always plugged in.

But barcode scanners connected to WoWs need constant attention.

Yes, they can be charged in only 20 sec. But only if you remember to do so, and that only works for a couple of scans. In reality, we know this is not enough, and people forget to charge them.

Remembering to put a shared scanning device in its charging dock is not always the first thing that springs to mind when you’re working on a unit.

Why Wait 20 Seconds

A smartphone solves this problem. It gets assigned to one person, so they are more likely to ensure it is charged. And even with rigorous use – of the barcode scanner as well as any other apps – it will stay charged for the duration of a shift.

10. Conclusion - Bring Mobility into the Now

Over the coming months, we will be investigating the concept of Mobility and what it means in terms of hardware and software and implementation.

Due to Covid-19, healthcare is facing a very different sort of challenge to what it has before. Modern Mobility could go a long way towards helping hospitals and nurses deal with these changes.

In our view, utilizing smartphones for scanning leads to fewer devices and greater efficiency. This adds up to a better overall experience for nurses.

And all of this leads to better outcomes for patients.

Now is the time to put this into action. The quote below is from Florence Nightingale, arguably one of the most important architects of what hospitals are today.

“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.”
Florence Nightingale

If you are interested in bringing Modern Mobility into your hospital, contact us. Or sign-up for 100 free licenses for 90 days for EPIC ROVER.

Find Out How We Can Help

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How the smartphone offers a low-cost and accessible way help healthcare providers deliver patient-centric care at scale.

Scandit for Epic Rover on iOS

How Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK for Rover facilitates barcoded medication administration (BCMA), using the camera of the mobile device.

How UCSF Health Deployed a Smartphone Solution in 14-days

Check out this webinar to hear how smartphones can empower healthcare staff and how a mobile solution can be implemented in a short time frame.