Small business owners rarely think about the physical characteristics of the personal computers they buy. PCs are a commodity item. In fact, they're usually quite impersonal. Office chairs elicit more emotion. PCs come in three standard form factors laptop, desktop and tower and a range of neutral colors. Take your pick.
But in some businesses, the way a computer looks, the amount of room it takes up and the way you interact with it can be just as important as what's inside. That's why many health care practices, like the Canonsburg Chiropractic Center in Canonsburg PA, opt for elegant, all-in-one computers from niche PC vendors like Pelham Sloane.
The Canonsburg Chiropractic Center leases a Pelham Sloane PS1500M and uses it as a workstation and network server to run insurance claims documentation software from Pro Solutions. The company also makes the Pro Adjuster computer-assisted chiropractic treatment technology that the clinic uses. The Pelham Sloane computer unit sits in one of the treatment rooms, and the firm's chiropractors use it as they interact with patients.
At first glance, the multiple-award winning PS1500M looks like a flat-panel monitor on a pedestal stand except that it's about 2.75-inches thicker. In fact, the PS1500 is the computer. The unit integrates the CPU, hard drive and optical drive with the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitor. And the screen is touch-sensitive, a crucial feature in the firm's application.
You'll pay a premium for the product's special features and form factor, though not a huge one. A PS1500M with a 1.7 GHz Intel Pentium M mobile processor (the type used in many lightweight laptops), 512MB RAM, and a 40 GB hard drive sells for about $2,500 at Tech Depot, an Office Depot subsidiary that sells technology products online.
Meanwhile, Dell sells laptops with the only slightly-less-powerful 1.6 GHz Pentium M processor and otherwise similar specifications for as little as $1,800. You can custom-configured the PS1500M like many commodity PCs. It's also available with a Pentium 4 processor, and the price goes as high as $3,000.
More Than Just a Pretty Face
For the doctors at the Canonsburg Chiropractic Center, the machine is well-worth the premium for several reasons. "I like the size of it, it's very compact," says Dr. Jon Stein, one of two practitioners at the clinic. "It stands on our table in the work environment and doesn't take up a lot of space."
The size and compactness may seem trivial considerations, but in many medical offices, space is very much at a premium. In a crowded, active treatment facility, a piece of computer equipment that has only one cable running from it the electrical cord is a godsend.
In areas where space is truly limited, you can mount a PS1500 series computer on an articulated arm attached to a desk or wall, or hang it flat against the wall. Pelham Sloane claims these are the only all-in-one computer systems that can use any mounting device conforming to the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) Flat Display Mounting Interface standard.
|Designing Style The Pelham Sloane PS1500M offers an elegant look, a compact line and computing muscle for any SMB that has a need for both form and function.|
Flexible Work Style
The way the chiropractors interact with the PS1500 is also important. "The software we use was written specifically for a touchscreen," explains Stein. "The touchscreen buttons you select on the PS1500 screen are quite large, so data entry is very efficient. I probably do 95 percent of my work with the touchscreen, even though the unit has a keyboard and mouse."
The Pro Soft software helps chiropractors generate documentation that health insurers use to determine whether treatments are medically necessary and therefore covered under the patient's policy. The program documents the logical steps in a chiropractic diagnosis. If the doctor performs a particular diagnostic test, he touches an onscreen button, which generates a list of possible outcomes. When he touches the button for the appropriate outcome, the program generates a logic tree of follow-up steps.
"The patients sees me constructing their treatment program on the computer," Stein says. "And at the end, the software spits out a plan that documents the decision making at every step not only to satisfy the insurance company, but also for the satisfaction of the patients."
Stein believes that the computer's design is a definite benefit. "It gives the treatment room a kind of high-tech motif," he says. "It's black, and it sits there on its pedestal looking very sleek and sophisticated. Since it's right there with the patient, I think they may have a better opinion of what we're doing. It brings a perceived credibility that may offset the stigma that chiropractors are old fashioned."
The high-tech motif is in keeping with the clinic's use of Pro Solutions' Pro Adjuster, a device that uses piezo-electric technology to administer chiropractic adjustments to patients' spines and then measure the results a revolutionary development in a field that is by definition "hands on."
Reliability Required The Pelham Sloane products are also very reliable and backed by a dependable company, says Jim Dudiak of Integrated Assembly Systems (IAS), the value added reseller (VAR) that sold the Pro Solutions system to the Canonsburg clinic. Dudiak discovered the computers, which are made by a UK-based firm, at a trade show. He says it ended a three-and-a half-year search for a suitable product to use in medical office applications.
Stein says that while he's no computer expert, he's been impressed by the PS1500M's reliability so far. "All I know," he says, "is that it works when you need it to work. It hasn't screwed up yet."
In addition to running the Pro Solutions software, the computer is also a wireless server that will allow the clinic eventually to expand the system by adding a tablet PC. The tablet will be able to access the applications over the network from another treatment room. And its portability will make it even easier for practitioners to work with the computer and patients at the same time.
Are products like the Pelham Sloane all-in-one computers suitable or necessary for every small office? Clearly not. But where there's a need for a compact, self-contained touchscreen unit as there is in many medical offices the additional cost involved is well worth the investment.
Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s. Just for fun, he also authors features and columns on digital photography for Here's How, a spiffy new Canadian consumer technology magazine.
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