Along with tablet PC maker Mobile Computing, Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has been developing and testing the platform—just a concept a year ago—at El Camino Hospital, in Mountain View, Calif.
"This is a new PC category," said Scott Eckert, CEO of Motion Computing, in Austin, Texas. "Its not about the technology; its about the hospitals needs."
"It has the look and feel of a device thats more like a medical device than a computer," Eckert said.
The mobile clinical assistants features are likely to include RFID (radio-frequency identification) tracking, bar-code scanning for medications, wireless access to patient vital signs and electronic medical records, and a spill-and-drop-tolerant enclosure.
The mobile clinical assistant is promising, according to Monica Hite, nursing coordinator for the transitional care unit at El Camino Hospital. "The portability was awesome, and the handle was great," said Hite. "But sometimes it didnt work, and we need things to be fast."
"Nurses really dont have any time to wait for an application to come up," said Monique Lambert, a senior research scientist with Intel. "To reduce the latency is a pretty critical capability. Its a hard requirement, but I think we need to address it."
When asked what her dream clinical assistant would be, Hite said, "It would have the longest battery life known to man, with a bigger screen but smaller computer."
Beyond addressing health cares hardware difficulties, interoperability is "probably one of the more thorny issues around health care IT," said Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intels Digital Health Group.
Burns noted that the health care market has long been served largely by proprietary solutions. "The single largest spend in health care technology is on middleware to make hospital systems work together," he said. "This is just a band-aid on a much larger problem."
Intel helped to found the Continua Health Alliance in June, an industry group formed to deliver interoperability in personal health and wellness devices. Since the alliances inception, the number of companies involved has grown to 55.
The alliance plans to publish technical guidelines for health-care-device interoperability by the end of next year. And consumer products bearing the Continua logo are scheduled to be available in early 2008.