Tremont's wireless platform extends software to users

June 14, 2000

Tremont's wireless platform extends software to users Hardware vendor regards ergonomics as key High-bandwidth wireless data flow has become a reality and is opening up the healthcare industry—where the need for mobility is a

Tremont's wireless platform extends software to users

Hardware vendor regards ergonomics as key

High-bandwidth wireless data flow has become a reality and is opening up the healthcare industry—where the need for mobility is a given—to the possibilities inherent in personal data assistants (PDAs) and cellular phones (HNN 5/3/00). But as vendors work to establish standards for operability, "traditional" wireless networking continues to make headway in healthcare, most notably in cart-based workstations.

One of the leaders in this market, Tremont Medical, has chosen to focus on clinician workflow and ergonomics in developing its products. The firm was originally founded to integrate mobile monitoring at the bedside. Its current product lines include mobile clinical computing workstations (SC-2015, SC-2112), power systems (LT-1000, P-2000), and stand-alone workstations designed to work with non-Tremont carts (MC-1000). The systems operate eight to 15 hours on battery power and leak less than 100 milliamps of electricity, which is well within the UL 2601 safety specification for hospitals. The workstations cost between $5000 and $7000, and Tremont offers a leasing option through American Express.

At the April HIMSS conference, Tremont introduced a thin-client workstation, the SC-2015-T, which enables the customer to manage system software from one central location using client-server architecture. The benefit of thin client over thick client systems is that customers can maintain better software integrity, according to Todd Alexander, president and COO of Tremont. In keeping with the firm's commitment to open systems architecture, the SC-2015-T can operate under either Citrix Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) or Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

More recently, Tremont has begun looking at smaller mobile products that leverage its expertise in cart-based workstations and user interfaces. Rather than developing a type of PDA, the firm is considering acquiring the rights to a product developed by another company, which has been pulled off the market. If the deal goes through, the product will be available in the fall.

"We're trying to find an appropriate, handheld (rather than palm-held) device that is smaller than a tablet but larger than a Palm Pilot and can be used across all venues of care," Alexander said. "We've found that if you give doctors something like a chart, they will follow that ergonomic model."

Alexander believes that handheld devices are still in the early adopter phase, in large part because they require physicians to alter the way they do certain tasks. In addition, he said, many vendors are still trying to determine the best way to provide physicians with sophisticated yet easy-to-use applications and devices.

"The question is how to work in a mobile environment when you're used to working with paper. It's tied to the clinical patient record," Alexander said. "People are spending a lot of time figuring out how to use mobile devices. Lots of clinical information software packages from big software companies are text-based rather than object-based or graphical. These systems are not designed for a mobile environment, but are being used there."

According to Alexander, Tremont provides the necessary connectivity to move healthcare data into the locations where the data are needed, like linking information systems with the Internet. The firm is actively negotiating with software companies to make Tremont's technology the platform of choice and believes that it can increase the market for software by providing ergonomic, workflow-oriented equipment that will get the programs in front of healthcare providers.

"Data is moving out into the ether, where it can be protected," said Alexander said. "Software companies provide the software, dot.coms the information flow, and wireless vendors the transmission of information. Connecting these islands requires appropriately ergonomic solutions, meaning human interfaces, not just wrist rests."

The privately held company claims to have around 150 customers and over 2000 installed units. May was the biggest sales month in the company's history, according to Alexander, and sales are on track to double this year, for the second year in a row.