We need to choose hardware for our operating room within our hospital for our new medical informatics system. The hardware does not need to be extremely powerful, as it's basically acting as a thin client, and not doing much processing.

Our solution needs to be portable when the nursing staff is between cases, and on the move, but have the ability to display on a larger screen, and have a full keyboard when in the O.R. rooms.

I was thinking it would be nice if there was some type of tablet computer that could plug into a docking station when in the O.R. room and display on a larger monitor with keyboard. Then when the staff is between cases and interviewing the patient they can un-dock the tablet and bring it with them.

We need the larger screen the majority of the time, because the client software does not display great on a smaller screen, and many of our nurses are older with poor eyesight. However, we still would like to take it on the move when necessary, and be convenient enough to carry.

Does anyone have any recommendations?


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    – sysadmin1138
    Jan 5 '12 at 3:18

Dragging computer hardware (which is difficult to clean, let alone sterilize) in and out of a supposedly sterile environment sounds downright scary. And that's even before you start considering how users interact (touch) the device!

I'd strongly recommend using a dedicated (fixed) device in the OR. There is also a strong case for looking at contactless technology for referencing data for a particular patient - RFID is an obvious solution - but don't ignore good old-fashioned barcodes.

A computer that you can easily clean / swab down means cost - while all your hardware needs to be cleanable, this is particularly true of stuff in the OR. Most ruggedized devices are intended for military uses - and will have thick rubber extrusions which are difficult to keep very clean / have a lot of hidden voids. Have a look for hard-case waterproof devices.

basically acting as a thin client


the more portable the better

Maybe you need 2 devices - the 'normal' terminal, and something like a VNC client running inside the OR?

  • 3
    I wish i could upvote this more than once. Jan 24 '11 at 10:56
  • Thanks for the answer. Can you give me some examples of hard-case waterproof devices? I am not familiar with these.
    – Steve
    Jan 24 '11 at 12:42

Given the complexity of legal, regulatory, confidentiality and safety requirements for IT equipment in medical scenarios around the world I'd strongly urge to to speak to the 'name brand' IT companies directly about this as they will have whole sections of their businesses dedicated to managing these requirements. Certainly HP, IBM, Apple, Dell etc. will have these groups in place to help you.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that we can't or shouldn't help you but I know from my own experiences in medicine control in the UK that it's not always possible to implement the solution that initially seems best placed to fit the need.

  • 1
    HP and Dell certainly do. Jan 24 '11 at 11:10

I've only ever used HP tablets, and they've worked fine for the people we had that needed the tablet form factor. We don't have any of the current HP model, but it's specs are probably good enough for you, and there are docking stations available so your idea of having a large monitor in an OR and just drop in the tablet would work. The Dell tablet has some good specs and also has a docking station available.

You might also want to look at the Panasonic Toughbooks if people are going to be carrying them around and possibly (in my experience, inevitably) dropping them along the way.

One final comment: do you actually need a tablet? You said you need the keyboard in the OR, so maybe just any notebook would do? But maybe you're talking about having an external keyboard connected to the docking station.

  • Thanks for the great response. A notebook may work, however, the OR staff currently finishes their (paper) documentation after one case is done, and on the way to interview the next patient (because of time constraints). I'm assuming this will stay the same when transitioning to electronic records, therefore the more portable the better, which is why I was thinking a tablet with a docking station. When they are in a case, they can dock it on a cart that will be in each OR room. You do bring up a good point about dropping them though, as i'm sure this will happen.
    – Steve
    Jan 23 '11 at 18:35

I know I'm coming a bit late to this, but what about something like a Sun Ray? Dedicate a unit for the OR, and have multiple units available outside. You can even use smart cards to enable session mobility.

I know that Sun Rays are used in medical environments already and are easy to clean since they don't have any moving parts.


Use a Motion C5 Mobile Clinical Assistant
I work in IT in health and despite people thinking it's scarey, nurses do need portable technology. Having 6 computers, or 1 computer with 6 nurses waiting in a line is simply not an option. We build Motion Tablet C5's to our SOE standard. At the risk of sounding like a salesman:
Legality/confidentiality: they are secure and require logins like all our SOE devices.
Contamination: they are sealed units and are wiped down and sterilized with all other hospital equipment.
Safety: they are ruggedised so they can be dropped and sat on.

Edit: don't use an iPad. Unless you can get your propriety hospital software developed and onto the Apple AppStore then don't waste your money.


I definitely second both symcbean and Chopper3 's answers (upvoted both), but I did have at least one suggestion to add for inside the room itself, based on this part of the requirements:

The hardware does not need to be extremely powerful, as it's basically acting as a thin client, and not doing much processing.

Something like this Acer Veriton should be more than adequate. It's very small, and so will fit in an out-of the way place, or even on a cart next to a larger piece of equipment if you have things that float between several rooms (and helps it be "portable" in a more medically-safe way). They're also pretty quiet, and for all it's a netbook processor inside they are surprisingly capable little machines.

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