Zebra HC100 – Hands-on Review

Patient Identification – the new standard

The Toaster from ZebraThere has been a lot of attention given to patient safety of late and being able to quickly and accurately identify patients is the starting point of any patient safety (and billing) system.

Using wristbands as a form of patient identification has been around for a long time – a lot of hospitals buy these on sheets and print them on laser printers in the admissions area. The wristbands are usually barcoded, enabling patient ID data to be captured automatically.

Much of the labeling in the modern hospital has moved from laser to thermal printers. There are many advantages of thermal printing technology, especially in applications where just a single label is needed – much easier to print one label on a thermal printer than having to use a whole sheet of laser labels.

A problem has been that traditional desktop thermal printers are designed for printing labels and do not make the idea solution for wristband printing.

Our friends at Zebra Technologies, have come up with a solution to this problem – the HC100 Patient ID printer.

One of the biggest challenges for wristband printing is the fact that in the admissions area, different patients need different wristbands. There is a need for different sizes and color coding – based on the size of the patient and the reason they are there. When using traditional thermal printers, the admissions staff either needs to have multiple printers – each with its own size/type of wristband – or to change the roll of wristband material; on a bad day for just about every arriving patient.

Zebra’s amazingly elegant solution was to design the HC100 to accept cassettes of wristbands rather than have to constantly change rolls. To change to another size, the admissions person, just presses one button to eject the current cassette, puts the new one in place and prints – this has to be the fastest changeover thermal printer ever designed!

Each of the cassettes has a small RFID tag that tells the printer what type of wristband is inside. This instantly calibrates the printer so it is ready to print right away with not a single wristband wasted – very impressive.

ConnectionsThe Zebra people have kindly loaned me one of these little printers to check out and to demo to some potential clients.

We’ve always referred to the HC100 as “The Toaster” and getting it out of the box it is clear that this is a very apt name. The printer is a rectangular plastic box with a big slot (big enough for bagels) in the top.
The printer is a robust heavy metal thing, like Zebra’s industrial printers – it is made of decent quality plastic; after all, it is designed to sit on a desk, not be used in a warehouse!

The rear of the printer has serial, USB and Ethernet ports – plenty of connectivity. A nice touch is that there is a little rubber cover for the Ethernet port. Wireless networking is also available if needed.

Zebra claims the HC100 is compatible with most of the hospital software systems such as Cerner and Meditech. Needless to say, I don’t have any of those systems here in the office, so I installed the Seagull driver so I can send print jobs to the printer via my trusty BarTender installation.

I have to say, operating this little printer is just so simple. After spending a few minutes to design print formats for a couple of wristband sizes, I dropped in the first cassette. Just a couple of seconds later, the printer is ready to print.

Change to another size and the same thing – the printer is ready to go in just a second or so. The printer starts printing with hardly anyPhanatic likes itdelay after I click on the print button and the print quality on the Zebra wristband material is excellent. The printhead is 300 DPI so can produce nice crisp barcodes and text.

I have to admit I’ve enjoyed using a new product that is a result of some clever out of the box thinking. I can’t remember the last time there was something really innovative in the thermal printing world.

The HC100 is a great solution for a problem that has never been addressed before. I’d suggest that anyone responsible for a hospital admissions area check it out. Not only does the HC100 offer some nice benefits, the pricing for the hardware and the wristband cassettes is in the same ballpark as less efficient systems.

Highly recommended!

Want to learn more? Just give me a call at 603-598-1553 x237. I have some good resources including the instructions on how to use the printer in a Meditech environment.

Oh – was that toast or bagels for you?

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