It was not long after mankind invented the wheel, carts came around. Throughout history people have been mounting wheels on boxes, now we have everything from golf carts, shopping carts, hand carts and my personal favorite, hotdog carts. So you might ask yourself, “What is so smart about a medical cart?”
Today’s medical carts have evolved to be more than just a storage box with wheels. Rubbermaid Medical Solutions, one of the largest manufacturers of medical carts, have created a cart that is specially designed to house computers, telemedicine, medical supply goods and to also offer medication dispensing. Currently the computers on the medical carts are used to provide access to CPOE, eMAR, and EHR applications.
With the technology trend of mobility quickly on the rise in healthcare, organizations might question the future viability of medical carts. However a recent HIMSS study showed that cart use, at the point of care, was on the rise from 26 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2011. The need for medical carts will continue to grow; as a result, cart manufacturers are looking for innovative ways to separate themselves from their competition. Medical carts are evolving from healthcare products to healthcare solutions. Instead of selling medical carts with web cameras, carts manufacturers are developing complete telemedicine solutions that offer remote appointments throughout the country, allowing specialist to broaden their availability with patients in need. Carts are even interfaced with eMAR systems that are able to increase patient safety; the evolution of the cart is rapidly changing the daily functions of the medical field.
Some of the capabilities for medical carts of the future will be to automatically detect their location within a healthcare facility. For example if a cart is improperly stored in a hallway for an extended period of time staff could be notified to relocate it in order to comply to the Joint Commission’s requirements. Real-time location information for the carts could allow them to automatically process tedious tasks commonly performed by healthcare staff. When a cart is rolled into a patient room it could automatically open the patient’s electronic chart or give a patient visit summary through signals exchanged between then entering cart and the logging device kept in the room and effectively updated.
Autonomous robots are now starting to be used in larger hospitals such as the TUG developed by Aethon. These robots increase efficiency and optimize staff time by allowing staff to focus on more mission critical items. Medical carts in the near future will become smart robotic devices able to automatically relocate themselves to where they are needed. This could be used for scheduled telemedicine visits, the next patient in the rounding queue or for automated medication dispensing to patients.
Innovation will continue in medical carts as the need for mobile workspaces increase. What was once considered a computer in a stick could be the groundwork for care automation in the future.
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