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Workstation or Arm: Which bedside care option is best for your facility?

February 22nd, 2023
mobile workstations or mounted workstations

Hospital IT decision-makers have a tough job when it comes to picking technology investments that will take patient care to the next level.  When deciding between mobile computer workstations or wall-mounted mounted arms, it’s important to evaluate the impact on patient care, your facility’s workflow, space considerations, and of course, budget. To make this easier, we will break down the pros and cons of each point-of-care option.

A Case for Arms
To begin, a single wall-mounted arm costs far less than a cart.  Their smaller and more flexible footprint makes them a favorite for facilities with tight spaces because arms can easily be moved out of the way onto a wall when not in use. Since mounting arms are securely fastened to walls or ceilings, they eliminate concerns about physical loss.  They also enhance a facility’s ability to protect patient information and conform to HIPAA regulations because unlike tablets and laptops, wall-mounted equipment cannot be misplaced or stolen—ensuring private patient data stays where it belongs. The adjustable nature of arms allows nurses and other providers to custom-position them for comfort, promoting more ergonomic working conditions.

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Constraints of Mounting Workstations
Installation of wall-mounted arms into live patient rooms can be disruptive if not planned and executed carefully. When arms are not properly installed, visible, unmanaged cables will make for a messy, unappealing space.  Wall-mounted workstations are compact, so the addition of accessories to arms is limited compared to a larger cart-based workstation. So, remember to consider future needs when choosing a solution.  It’s also worth thinking about whether an arm will have enough reach to be positioned so that eye contact with the patient can be maintained. If the workstation is mounted such that the clinician has their back to the patient, the technology is getting in the way of care. Finally, med passing can be a challenge on some arm-based workstations if there is no worksurface on which to place medication.

When do Mobile Workstations make sense?
The initial investment in a workstation cart may be higher than an arm, but this can be partially offset when a cart is shared between multiple rooms. One well-equipped mobile workstation often serves as a shared resource, but arms are typically installed in each patient room. Because a cart can be outfitted to include everything a nurse would need (no more running back and forth to the nursing station), mobile workstations may allow for more time to be spent face-to-face with the patient.  For large rooms that are crowded with equipment and must accommodate a variety of procedures or patient situations, mobile workstations provide much-needed flexibility.  Most carts can be easily adjusted to provide an ergonomic workstation for each user.  In rooms where the headwall is crowded with equipment and potentially intimidating for patients, a nicely designed cart may be more aesthetically appealing and help create a more caring environment for both patients and their families.

Cart Limitations
Workstation carts can be bulky, so not well-suited to smaller spaces. Those with battery systems also typically require more IT-driven preventative maintenance than arms do. This is fine if your partner offers a preventative maintenance program that takes this burden off your IT staff.  Additionally, mobile workstations are often simply parked in the hallway, which eliminates their mobility advantage and takes up needed floor space.

TouchPoint Medical has a full portfolio of solutions that includes both arms and workstations designed for today’s most demanding environments.  Most full-hospital EMR implementations include a combination of both.  When it comes to making the decision between arms and mobile workstations for a particular clinical area, we are pleased to assist with an on-site evaluation that takes into account patient interactions, your workflow, space constraints, and budget.  To schedule your consultation, contact us today.