Panasonic ToughBook CF-H1 Mobile Clinical Assistant Review - Panasonic ToughBook CF-H1 Review

Considering that the CF-H1 is designed to be used to access confidential data like patient records, Panasonic has equipped it with an impressive array of security options. There’s a fingerprint scanner, which is hardly unusual these days, but considering that many healthcare professionals will wear gloves as a matter of course, its usefulness could be limited. Far more useful is the smartcard reader, but unlike most smartcard readers I’ve seen in mobile computers, this one doesn’t require the card to be inserted into a slot – oh no, that’s far too old fashioned for the CF-H1. There’s actually a wireless smartcard reader in the CF-H1, so you just need to wave your card over the sensor mounted in the base of the device.

But the wireless smartcard reader isn’t even the coolest security option on offer, because the CF-H1 also has an RFID scanner built into it. In case you’re not familiar with RFID, it’s a short range, wireless identification technology – hence Radio Frequency IDentification. The idea is that an RFID reader will scan RFID tags and read the data on them, and decide whether that user is allowed access. There are two types of RFID tags – active and passive. Active tags need a power source, while passive tags have no power and rely on the RFID reader to do all the work. Passive RFID tags can be integrated into ID cards, or even badges, so a doctor or nurse could have the functionality built into their name-tag, and then when they pickup the CF-H1 and press the RFID button, their tag will be read and they will be granted access to the device. Clever!

To the right of the screen you’ll find a column of buttons and indicators. The topmost button is for power and directly below this are two battery indicator lights, because like the ToughBook CF-U1, the CF-H1 can house two battery packs. This means that when one battery runs out, the machine will automatically switch to the second battery. Not only does this configuration extend battery life (you’ll get six hours continuous running time from both batteries), but it also allows you to hot-swap battery packs, so you never have to shut the CF-H1 down due to a lack of juice. Both batteries are charged when the CF-H1 is connected to the mains, while the optional docking cradle has space to charge two more batteries as well as the machine itself.

The next button down the column is for the integrated 2-megapixel camera – this is mounted at the top left corner (if facing the screen) at the rear of the CF-H1. The camera is equipped with dual LED lights, so shooting in low light is possible. The results from the camera aren’t likely to make it into your photo album, but that’s not really the point. What you get is an image that’s perfectly adequate for its purpose, which will generally be photographic records to go with patient notes.

Next is the RFID button which I’ve already covered, and below this is a yellow button with a barcode on it. Unsurprisingly the barcode symbol refers to the integrated barcode scanner that’s mounted in the base of the CF-H1. This will enable users to scan the medicine that is being prescribed to patients, and have that data instantly added to that patient’s notes. You also get two user programmable buttons, a lock button and indicators for hard disk use, and when the RFID scanner is active.

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