A nurse talks on a Zebra TC52ax-HC clinical smartphone
By John Pomerleau | January 10, 2022

To Provide Better Patient Care, We Must Unburden the Delivery of That Care. This New Clinical Mobility Solution is a Good Start.

Between Android™ 11, Wi-Fi 6 and its many other new solution features, the Zebra TC52ax-HC mobile computer gives healthcare workers all the tools they need to take back control of their time and give patients more quality time.

Ten years ago, pagers helped clinicians answer calls to action. Today, they’re literally answering – and making – calls on the fly, from patients’ bedsides as well as labs, pharmacies, breakrooms, and long winding corridors in hospitals and healthcare facilities across the globe thanks to the proliferation of clinical smartphones.

The rise in mobile device utilization is not a surprise considering that most respondents to Zebra’s latest Hospital Vision Study, “believe the quality of patient care would improve if nurses, physicians and non-clinical healthcare workers had access to collaboration tools.” They also cited the convenience of using mobile devices to access healthcare applications as a motivator for more widespread investment in this technology across both clinical and non-clinical departments.  

That’s why Zebra has designed enterprise mobile computing platforms such as the brand new TC52ax-HC in cooperation with clinicians and other healthcare professionals. We want to ensure these devices can be comfortably used, easily scaled, and securely connected to information systems, whether used at the point of care or in non-clinical operations. We also want to reduce the burden on the IT teams charged with integrating, configuring, securing, maintaining and scaling these solutions because, as hospital decision-makers have confirmed, clinical mobility solutions are going to be key to automating workflows and unburdening the delivery of care from here on out.

Smart Device Design + Intelligent Software = Empowered (and Unburdened) Healthcare Professionals

The best way we can drive improvements in the quality of clinical communications, collaboration and decision-making is by automating information flows and workflows. Many people believe that starts with the mobile device and, technically, that’s true. However, the brains of clinical smartphones aren’t exclusively in the computer chips. They’re in the software, too. The data generated via mobile apps and other intelligent software platforms like Workforce Connect is what makes the user – and the mobile device itself – smart. What good is a built-in distress button if the device doesn’t know who to call when it’s pushed?

But just like a device alone can’t facilitate seamless communications and data sharing, neither can software. It really is a team effort and, as such, requires balanced engineering and innovation. That’s why we have never stopped innovating on our TC5X-HC healthcare series mobile computers – and why we just introduced our second clinical mobility solution in a year. (Can you believe the TC52x-HC just turned one?!)

Clinicians need to be able to do more with less. And with the new Zebra TC52ax-HC, that need is easier to fulfill. Let me explain:

- Clinicians have a strong dependency on their teammates, and the urgency of most clinical communications is rising. Care team members need a secure way to call a colleague without having to dial a single digit or waste time and steps walking to the nearest nursing station. (They want to be untethered.) They also need assurance that calls will go through the first time, every time and not drop as they move from floor to floor.

Though the TC52x-HC introduced just last year is a powerful, high-performance Wi-Fi™ and Bluetooth®-connected device, we know that many hospitals have already started upgrading to Wi-Fi 6. They want to improve application responsiveness and maintain the signal reliability for PBX calls and push-to-talk communications as more wirelessly connected technologies come online. A missed alarm or delayed text message among clinicians can be equally devastating to a patient in medical crisis who needs intervention stat. So, we wanted to ensure you had a Wi-Fi 6 clinical smartphone option, thus the TC52ax-HC’s quick follow-on to the TC52x-HC.

With the move to Wi-Fi 6, we were also able to integrate a new Target Wake Time feature, which allows the Wi-Fi function in the device to essentially sleep until triggered by transmissions from the access points. This reduces the time radios are powered on to transmit and search for signals. It is very valuable in dense hospital environments that are notorious for lots of access point roaming, as it helps preserve the device’s battery life. And, for what it’s worth, we also updated to Bluetooth 5.1 technology to increase speeds and lower power consumption. (It offers more aggressive caching.)

Healthcare workers should never feel like technology is limiting them. This includes the IT professionals that selflessly spend hours evaluating, testing, and implementing new technology platforms that could help front-line workers sleep a little easier – and longer – at night. For workflow automation to become possible, both the back-end healthcare information systems and the edge mobility platforms must be synced and optimized. This becomes increasingly complex as more data is digitized and processes are digitalized.

By giving the TC52ax-HC a stronger foundation with Android™ 11 and a Qualcomm SD660 chipset, we are making it easier for IT to configure, deploy, secure, manage and upgrade the device as well as entire mobility-centric solutions. For example, the TC52ax-HC can be configured with WPA3, which uses the latest security protocols to keep devices and data locked down. It also provides increased authentication and cryptographic strength. And with LifeGuard 3.0 for Android 11, even routine security updates will be seamless and minimally disruptive, as they will occur over the air with A/B system updates that ensure a workable booting system remains on the device the whole time. Healthcare workers won’t be impacted by the updates and can continue to use their mobile computers during the update process. Plus, IT teams will have our full support with TC52ax-HC devices for at least the next eight years.

We have also upgraded the TC52ax-HC with a new larger 64GB Universal Flash Storage (UFS), which is twice the memory available in the previous TC52x-HC. And the Qualcomm SD660 2.45 GHz CPU processor currently has the highest clock speed in the industry, delivering a significant boost to application performance and response times.

I wasn’t kidding when we said we don’t want technology to be limiting!

This is something that has been weighing on us heavily during the pandemic and fueling our ongoing engineering innovation. We want to give you and your teams the bandwidth to do what you need to with your devices so you can regain control of your time, improve both workflows and patient flows, and automate everything from alerts to analytics.

That being said, I bet if you were to ask clinicians what they feel is the most “freeing” new feature of the TC52ax-HC, they would probably say the Zebra Workstation Connect desktop experience. A very detailed description of how it works can be found in this blog post, which I collaborated on with my colleague Lesly Gonzalez. But the short story is that it enables the TC52ax-HC to be docked at a workstation and essentially transformed into a desktop computer. It doesn’t just project what’s on the mobile device onto the larger display. It literally gives clinicians a full desktop experience while retaining the mobile apps and user interface on the docked clinical smartphone. They can still make and receive PTT or PBX calls or reply to messages and alerts on the mobile device while updating electronic medical records (EMR), reviewing test results or updating schedules on the desktop display. It really is pretty cool. And though it’s only available with the TC52ax-HC right now, it will be compatible with the TC52x-HC very soon, so stay tuned.

Something else you will only find in the TC52ax-HC (and other TC52 Series devices) is a special Li-ion battery that has a Bluetooth Low Energy beacon that makes it easy to find devices, even if the device is turned off or the battery is dead. The combined solution is officially called Device Tracker, and Dave Degrassi gave an excellent explanation of how the cloud-based solution works in this blog post if you haven’t read it yet. If I had to sum up its benefit…gone are the days when a clinician was stressed because they couldn’t remember which room they may have left their device in, or whether the device was accidentally scooped up with patients’ bedsheets and taken for laundering. There is an official return on investment (ROI) calculator available if you want to run the numbers for your organization and specific use case. Your Zebra representative can help you with that.

The Tides – and Colors – are Changing, but Some Things are Still the Same

We’ve all had enough hardship the past two years, especially those in the healthcare community. Everyone needs things to be easier. So, we’ve created a mobility solution that makes everything easier. Actually, two mobility solutions, if you consider the shared innovation and feature sets of the TC52ax-HC and TC52x-HC. They both have…

  • exceptionally bright 5-inch full-HD, 600 NIT displays. This makes it easy to read patient histories in EMRs or confirm drug dosages, whether placing orders at the bedside or walking outside across campus on a bright sunny day.
  • hot swappable batteries that help users power back up without experiencing any downtime. They don’t have to reboot and log back into apps. They can just continue with their workflows.
  • backward-compatible accessories.
  • the SE4720 integrated barcode scan engine, which makes it extremely easy to scan patients’ wristbands, medications, IV bags and more with first-time, every-time barcode capture. Its motion tolerance is far better than mine on a roller coaster, and it has a large “sweet spot.” The green aimer and white LED illumination are also more patient friendly than other colors, as my colleague Joe Licari explained when they were first integrated into the TC52x-HC last January. Plus, the white illumination also makes it easier to read color-coded specimen trays and biopsy cassettes.

In other words, both clinicians and non-clinical staff who have a TC52ax-HC (or TC52x-HC) in hand will be able to quickly document, review, confirm and share patient information – and trust that information’s accuracy – even when rushed and stressed during surges and long shifts. It also has new blue, disinfectant-ready, healthcare-grade plastics found on the sides and back of the TC52ax-HC.

The blue plastics used on the Zebra TC52ax-HC healthcare mobile computer

Three-quarters of clinicians and 81% of hospital decision-makers say there is great concern at their hospitals about preventing the spread of infections. With mobile devices becoming more prevalent in patient flows, we must ensure they can be thoroughly and frequently disinfected. It’s the only way for clinicians to feel comfortable using them in cleanrooms and around immunocompromised patients, or for patients to feel comfortable with clinicians’ using them while administering medications, drawing labs and cleaning wounds.

That’s why we have always wrapped TC52-HC devices in healthcare-grade, disinfectant ready plastics that can tolerate frequent cleaning by over 30 different disinfecting wipes and chemicals. In fact, one of the reasons why healthcare professionals say they have ultimately chosen TC52-HC mobile computers over consumer devices in recent years is because of their durability. So, beyond offering a calming aesthetic, the new blue healthcare plastics of the TC52ax-HC should help ease the minds of those conscious about potentially passing (or receiving) harmful germs.

Words of Wisdom – from Those Even More in the Know

Hospital administrators and IT leaders made it clear in our Hospital Vision Study that they understand the benefits of clinical mobility solutions, and clinicians know best what works and what doesn’t. That’s why I encourage you to check out this newly-released KLAS Research First Look Report, which was conducted by an unbiased third-party analyst firm that has a strong pulse on healthcare. It has quite a few customer insights on clinical mobility experiences with both Zebra and other vendors. We found the feedback very helpful, and I’m sure you will too as you’re digging deeper into the performance, features and scalability of the new Zebra TC52ax-HC and comparing it to other mobile computer options.

Just remember, clinical mobility solutions will always deliver a better ROI if built upon healthcare-grade enterprise mobile devices. And if you don’t believe me, your peers can confirm that fact:

Editor’s Note:

Curious which healthcare mobile computer is best for your clinical and nonclinical teams? This infographic might help.

John Pomerleau
John Pomerleau

John Pomerleau has been working in mobile computing for over 30 years. He is currently an Advanced Product Manager at Zebra Technologies and has been leading the TC5X product family, the most successful handheld to date for Zebra.  

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