Toughbooks aren’t just cool, they save money too

I’ve mentioned Panasonic Toughbooks on this website before. I’m a real fan of the Toughbook C1 tablet PC with its multi-touch digitizer, 10 hour battery life, spill-resistant keyboard and tough magnesium alloy exterior. It’s definitely on my short list of most desired devices.

It turns out that Toughbooks are more than just cool technology, they may actually save healthcare a little money when used the right way. NHS Kirkless, a primary care trust in the UK estimates that they are saving more than $900,000 per year by deploying 600 Toughbooks to their care providers in the field.


Remote working in patient care, with staff ‘hot-desking’ using mobile broadband-enabled laptops, is a proven cost-saver for the NHS. But the idea has been met with caution by some trusts owing to the limitations of 3G mobile reception.

However, one primary care trust, NHS Kirklees, has embraced the technology by deploying around 600 Panasonic Toughbooks, supplied and serviced by BT Health. The staff are, in the words of Robert Flack, managing director of Kirklees Community Healthcare Services (CHS), “loving it”.

Flack’s NHS organisation is the provider arm of NHS Kirklees, which employs more than 1,200 staff to meet the healthcare needs of more than 400,000 people across Dewsbury, Batley, Spenborough, and central and southern Huddersfield.

But, says Flack, the technical aspects of laptop-toting members of clinical, nursing and administrative support staff is only part of the equation. Improvements in patient care in the field are what is driving the project forward.

The last 12 months have seen Kirklees CHS steadily introducing 600 laptops to staff in a variety of healthcare environments, including health visitor services, to patients in their own homes.

“The fact that it involves the patient working with NHS professionals to determine how their healthcare will progress is the really great thing. We’ve had 25 (in-depth) interviews with patients about the new system and they all love it,” says Flack.

The use of laptops at the clinical coalface – in the patient’s home – has been especially successful, says Flack, particularly on family partnership work. “This is where the NHS works with teenage mothers to ensure that mother and baby get the best start in life, and the system allows staff to fill in the health record with the mother,” he says.

As well as tangible cost savings – NHS Kirklees is saving around £600,000 [$940,000] year in travel costs, as staff no longer need to return to base or the GP surgery to pick up notes – the use of remote working laptops has changed the way people work. Staff spend less time at base and increase their productivity when out and about.

The cost of a Panasonic Toughbook may seem high at first glance, but they are guaranteed to withstand rigorous use that would send most “regular laptops” to an early grave.

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