New Healthcare-Grade Mobile Computing Solution | Zebra Blog

New Healthcare-Grade Mobile Computing Solution Designed to Keep Clinicians Moving and Patients Safe, Especially During Busy Times

The super-charged Zebra TC52x-HC running Android™ 10 enables nurses to hot swap batteries while on the move. It also aims to improve the experience of both PTSD and newborn patients who may be sensitive to the red lasers traditionally seen with barcode scanners.

A nurse uses the new TC52x-HC is used to scan a patient`s wristband
by Joe Licari
January 07, 2021

Saying that clinicians’ technology needs are constantly evolving would be the understatement of the year! I know we’re only a few days into 2021, but things are literally changing by the minute and care team members can’t waste a single second trying to track down the people, equipment, supplies or data they need to do their jobs. They can’t afford to spend more than a few seconds capturing data or swapping out a mobile device battery, either.

That’s why we haven’t stopped innovating for even a minute.

Millions of nurses, phlebotomists, pharmacists and other clinicians around the world leverage Zebra’s technology solutions every day to coordinate and administer patient care, especially our TC5x touch mobile computers. And though the latest generation TC52-HC has proven time and again to boost the speed, safety and accuracy of clinical workflows, we are always looking to improve our technology’s performance and, subsequently, improve the healthcare experience for both practitioners and patients.

So, we convened virtual meetings with our Healthcare Customer Advisory Board (CAB) and checked in frequently with different hospitals, clinic and surgery center staff throughout 2020 to see how we could help them better fulfill their missions.

With everyone doing what they can to improve positive patient outcomes as the global pandemic lingers and other localized crises emerge, their investment focus is increasingly shifting to the front lines. They want to know if more can be done to help care team members work more efficiently through each workflow without compromising anyone’s safety or privacy.

Of course, many have already deployed clinical smartphones like the Zebra TC52-HC to replace the nurse’s toolbelt and give practitioners a reliable way to connect with one another – and patient data – in real time at the point of care. Without these mobility solutions in hand, it would be hard to care for as many patients as they need to each day and almost impossible to preserve patients’ rights to quality care based on today’s high standards. So, from our perspective, healthcare systems are doing exactly what they should be doing to improve operational capabilities and patient care in the current environment.

But there were a few things that we could do to give clinicians more of an edge with new features and capabilities.

Enter the Zebra TC52x-HC.

Clinicians and Patients are Going to Notice a Huge Difference in What This New Clinical Smartphone Can Do

Built on the Qualcomm SD660 chipset and powered by Android™ 10, the TC52x-HC touch mobile computer is our most advanced purpose-built healthcare mobility solution yet. And its added value comes from the simplicity it introduces into today’s most complex clinical workflows – and the fact that it doesn’t aim to “change” what’s already working exceptionally well for clinicians (which is a lot, as you can see from our customer success stories.)

Like the ever-popular TC52-HC, the TC52x-HC boasts a super light, yet extremely rugged ergonomic IP65 form factor that your front-line providers can count on, even if the device is accidentally dropped on the floor, exposed to moisture or disinfected with medical-grade chemicals dozens of times a day. We want them to be able to stay focused on patient care, not distracted by device care.

And, because the TC52x-HC shares a common – and powerful – Android OS architecture with the TC21-HC/TC26-HC, TC52x/TC57x and other recent mobile computers, your IT team will find it extremely easy to scale, secure and manage your mobility solution holistically so that it always runs optimally for clinicians. For example, they can push LifeGuard™ for Android security updates across all Zebra Android devices at once to mitigate the risk of patient data breaches. Plus, the TC52x-HC is fully backwards compatible with existing TC5X-HC accessories, offers an extensible application development platform for current Android platforms and comes with Zebra’s Mobility Total Benefits of Ownership (TBO) package, including 4+4 product lifecycle and support and Mobility DNA, which you can learn more about here.

In other words, this new healthcare-grade mobile computer isn’t much different from your currently-deployed Zebra devices – and that’s a good thing!

So, “what gives the TC52x-HC the “x” factor?” you may ask.

There are seven distinct differences, beyond the fact that the TC52x-HC is an Android 10 device out of the gate:

1. A hot swappable full-shift battery! Even though it only takes 5-10 seconds to swap out a battery, this can be an inconvenience if it becomes necessary mid-shift and causes the device to reboot. Our engineers designed the TC52X-HC so that its high capacity 4150 mAH rechargeable PowerPrecision+ battery will last more than a single shift. As a result, most customers only replace the battery every 12-14 hours...between shifts. But if for some reason, a battery needs to be replaced sooner, it now can be replaced with our new hot swap feature, without first having to open a new app or having to wait for the device to reboot after. Users can keep their apps running the whole time and won’t need to re-authenticate their credentials. With the TC52x-HC, users can keep a spare battery handy and replace it quickly without any impact on the workflow.

As soon as the battery is removed, the display turns off to save power and indicate the swap is in progress. However, the device stays connected and apps remain running. As long as the user replaces the battery quickly, full Wi-Fi connectivity and memory will be sustained. If it takes a little longer, the device can still quickly re-connect to Wi-Fi and nurses can continue their workflow and caring for patients with no downtime impact.

Of course, clinicians may not need to hot swap that often as the TC52x-HC rechargeable Li-Ion battery run time is 14 hours. But it’s nice to know that you can keep devices in service around the clock without interruptions to clinical workflows and patient care. 

2. A new scan engine that uses white illumination LEDs and a green aimer instead of the typical red illumination or laser common with other devices. This color switch was specifically designed to be more patient friendly based on feedback we’ve received from the healthcare community. Given that the TC52x-HC will likely be used throughout the hospital – including newborn intensive care (NICU), baby/mother and long-term care units housing patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – we felt this was a valuable change that we could make to keep patient safety and comfort a top priority. There were other advantages as well. We wanted to ensure that healthcare practitioners could quickly and accurately capture 1D, 2D, and Unique Device Identification (UDI) barcodes on everything from color-coded specimen trays and biopsy cassettes to patient wristbands – including items like blood bags and medical device packaging that may have uneven surfaces – whether they’re close up or two feet away. Our new integrated Zebra SE4720 barcode imager boasts maximum motion tolerance and a larger “sweet spot” that enables users to capture barcodes as fast as they can point the aimer and press the scan button. Again, our aim is to keep them moving.

3. A 5-inch full high-definition (HD) capacitive touchscreen with multi (glove) touch gesturing. We want care team members to be able to see every last detail displayed on their screen, whether looking at patient records, photos captured during surgery or medication administration instructions. So, we designed the TC52x-HC with a higher resolution, full high definition (HD) – 1080 x 1920 – display with exceptional 600 NIT brightness.  

Of course, we know that it’s not always possible to derive actionable intelligence from the on-screen data alone. So, users still have the option to pick up the device and quickly “call” colleagues for a consult using a number of different Workforce Connect (WFC) ready-to-use voice solutions, including WFC Push-to-Talk (PTT) Express, WFC PTT Pro and WFC Voice, as well as numerous voice and video solutions from our partners.

4. A built-in 13MP rear facing camera with Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) for faster and crisper image capture, even in low light. There’s also a 5MP front camera that can be used for video patient conferencing and virtual medial consultations, which have increased in popularity in 2020 and will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

5. A programmable red duress button. Once configured properly, when a clinician is in an emergency situation or under duress, a simple double press of this special button on the back of the device wakes up the device and makes a call or launches an app to send a secure message to quickly get help.

6. Faster processor and universal flash storage (UFS). The TC52x-HC now has the fastest processor in the industry, the 2.45 GHz quad-core Qualcomm SD660 CPU. (In fact, Zebra is the first in the market to offer this processor!)  It also comes equipped with UFS flash memory. That means that all your mobile applications will see a significant performance boost, including electronic health record (EHR) solutions, voice communications and alerting, medication administration, and more. (We know that anything that can be done to help clinicians move faster is appreciated.)

7.  A two-slot charging cradle. Well, technically it’s a single slot cradle with a second spare battery charging slot, but it works the same way. This is a great solution for users who want to charge their device and a spare battery simultaneously – perhaps a charge nurse or clinician with an office, or customers who only need one or two devices per location. (Note this new accessory is backward compatible and works with all of the TC5x family of devices including the TC51-HC, TC52-HC and the TC52X-HC).  

Why This New Mobility Solution Warrants Your Immediate Attention (and a Near-Term Investment)

Bottom line: the healthcare community needs new technology capabilities now more than ever. Replacing consumer devices with healthcare-grade, disinfectant-ready, rugged clinical smartphones and mobile computers can be the best way to help improve clinical workflow and patient care.

But, for the hospitals and clinicians already comfortable using Zebra TC5x clinical smartphones, the last thing we want to do is become disruptive by forcing them to implement and learn a completely new platform. The reason they’re able to work so efficiently in periods of surge demand is because they are so familiar with the mobile devices’ features and tools.

So, we thoughtfully designed the new TC52x-HC so that it can be integrated into your existing mobility solution architecture any time, whether that’s now (because you want/need a purpose-built Android 10 healthcare mobile computer), when you decide to upgrade your legacy Zebra devices, or when you need additional devices to support your workforce expansion.

And, when the time comes to make the switch to the TC52x-HC, you can be confident that you’ll have all the features you need to improve front-line practitioner collaboration, efficiency and accuracy – and, in turn, improve care quality and patient safety. You’ll also enjoy peace of mind that back-office IT system managers will be well-equipped to maintain economies of scale as your healthcare technology needs continue to evolve.

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Editor’ Note:

You can learn more about the differences between the TC52-HC and TC52x-HC here. Our healthcare technology solution engineers are also available to help you weigh your options and pick a platform that will best meet your needs today and ensure you’re ready for what the future may bring. You can contact them here.

You may also want to check out this report from analyst firm KLAS Research detailing the benefits that certain touch mobile computers, such as Zebra’s TC5x solutions, can offer in healthcare settings where devices are shared among staff. 

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Joe Licari
Joe Licari is currently the Director of Product Management, Enterprise Mobile Computing, Healthcare, where he is responsible for managing Zebra’s healthcare mobile computing products and solutions. With over 25 years of industry experience, he is passionate about addressing the growing mobile and digital demands of the healthcare community.