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Getting the lead out: Hamilton Medical Center is shifting from conventional sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries to advanced lithium-iron nano-phosphate (Li-Nano), which supports more technology at the point of care.

As hospitals bring more technology to the point of care, ensuring reliable performance and full-shift runtimes becomes a critical issue. To offer the runtime and durable performance nurses need, Hamilton Medical Center, a 282-bed hospital in Dalton, Ga., is shifting from conventional sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries to advanced lithium-iron nano-phosphate (Li-Nano).

Hamilton launched its push into electronic medical records (EMRs) in 2004 with barcode medication administration (BCMA), says Cathy Ferguson, RN, MSN, vice president and chief nursing officer. At that point, the SLA batteries were sufficient. However, performance issues began as the hospital added clinical documentation in 2010 to improve quality of care and efficiency.

"Our nurses have everything they need on the cart, but it's the bigger power draw that caused problems. Nurses sometimes had to change carts several times over the course of a shift to find one with power, or take carts into the patient room and plug in," says Ferguson. "It was especially frustrating when a workstation would lose power during a procedure, which meant that all data was lost and the nurse would have to start over."

As Hamilton began looking for solutions, the leadership team decided that Metro's Flo workstations with upgraded power systems were the right choice. While the facility had used carts from several manufacturers, Metro emerged as the preferred brand, according to Terri Brown, R.N., nursing director of medical services. The facility's fleet currently includes about 110 Metro Flo Series mobile computing workstations.

"Our nurses like the functionality of the work surface as well as the flexibility to add baskets and drawers to the carts, and they're very light and compact so it's easy to move them in tight spaces over a 12-hour shift," explains Brown. "The carts move quietly, which is an important issue--especially at night when patients are sleeping. They're also easy to clean, which supports our infection-control needs, and they've proven to be highly durable and reliable compared with other carts we've tried. The carts also have good ergonomics because it is easy to adjust the height of the work surface and the monitor."

To make the shift to Li-Nano, the facility began adopting the advanced technology as it upgrades its workstation fleet from older Flo 1750 units to the Flo 1760. Li-Nano's cycle life rating of 5,000+ is 16 times more than conventional SLA and will typically last the duration of workstation's lifespan, based on usage of 400-500 cycles per year. The power system outlasts the other technology on the workstation, such as the PC, which is typically every three or four years.

Metro's fully integrated workstations are designed to use power efficiently, which further enhances the performance of the advanced Li-Nano chemistry. For instance, the DC power system architecture uses a lower voltage compared to AC solutions. In addition, the power systems are equipped with smart electronics--a microchip on each battery pack--to balance the power draw and condition the battery to provide optimal performance and reliability.


As a result, the new Flo 1760 units have solved the problem at Hamilton Medical Center.

"Now our nurses are getting through 12-hour shifts without any problems," says Brown. "I'm not hearing any complaints, which means they're doing the job."

The improved power capacity is also opening the way for more technology at the point of care. The facility is launching vital-signs monitoring on the Flo 1760 workstations with Li-Nano power systems. The hospital is also planning to add supply management functionality to enhance efficiency. Metro workstations will support these ongoing upgrades because they are designed to change as technology needs evolve. Power systems, monitors, storage and accessories can be field-upgraded through Metro Outlast, part of the Metro ESP Enhanced Service Program.

In addition to improving performance, the switch to LiNano is also making life easier for the facility's IT staff.

"With Li-Nano, I can't remember the last time we had a service call about them. It's really made a big difference," says Donna Grooms, network analyst. "It's a big job keeping the carts running; that's why batteries are important. I don't have to spend so much time on it."

The integrated design that makes Metro Flo Series work stations ready to roll out of the box also saves time. "I like the fact I can go out on the dock, unbox it, put an image on it and it's ready to go," says Grooms. "In an hour's time it's out on the floor."

While the Li-Nano system offers reduced total cost of ownership, according to Grooms the most important benefits are at the point of care, shift after shift. "Less downtime--that is the big thing. When the nurses go in a patient room, they expect the cart to work."

The nursing staff agrees. "Our staff is very pleased with Metro Flo Series workstations. Extended battery runtime helps our nurses focus on patients without worrying about the cart working properly," says Ferguson. "A cart today is like a stethoscope--it's just essential for quality care."

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Title Annotation:Mobile Computing Comment
Publication:Health Management Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2012
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