Ebola field doctors’ need for an “Ebola-proof” tablet is finally filled. Hose it down with de-contaminating bleach, and all of the data will still be safe as its virus-free exterior. Here’s something you probably never considered about the world’s Ebola outbreaks: How can doctors and nurses keep track of patient data when every piece of paper, pen, and clipboard becomes contaminated just by being in the hot zone? As it turns out, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the doctors were shouting patient data over makeshift barricades to avoid spreading the contagion.
Ebola isn’t just passed through bodily fluids like saliva and mucus, it can be passed by contact with an infected patient’s sweat. Medical staff bundle up in layers of protective gear, but until now they had no solution to keep their notes from being contaminated.
Volunteers from Hack4Good, Whitespell, and Google partnered with MSF to create a tablet that could be used in medical fields of West Africa, allowing doctors to maintain patient charts that could be de-contaminated as needed. The tablet can be charged wirelessly and connects with a portable network server which is only about the size of a quarter.
To withstand decontamination procedures, the tablet needed to be more than just waterproof. It has an industrial level waterproof casing that can withstand soaking in 0.5% chlorine solution, which is strong enough to burn skin. Considering that a small tear in the many layers of protective gear worn by field doctors could cause a catastrophe, the tablet has rounded design without any sharp edges. It’s unclear whether the device uses a touchscreen or a stylus. A stylus could be a suit-puncturing hazard, and a touchscreen might be cumbersome to use while wearing layers of protective gloves.
Although there hasn’t been news of American or western outbreaks in a while, MSF is still has a base of volunteer doctors in West Africa. MSF’s goal is to use these new tablets to amass a network of field information from treating patients. They can then use that information to learn more about Ebola, which has been so difficult to treat.