Five Great IT Tools Under $100

May 28, 2009

Technology offers so many different tools to accomplish so many different tasks.

Technology offers so many different tools to accomplish so many different tasks. For many, it seems impossible to stay on top of all the possibilities.

Here are five categories of IT tools that can each be obtained for under $100 and will deliver value back to your medical practice many times over.

1. Laptop security

A laptop offers the end-user the freedom and flexibility of anywhere computing. The very mobile laptop also offers a thief a very easy target. If your laptop contains protected health information, a lost/stolen laptop carries even more risk to your practice.

One method for laptop security is a PC card that provides robust security without sacrificing user convenience. It operates by detecting motion, analyzing it to determine whether a threat exists, and implementing responses. The cards are independent of the computer operating system and operate whether the laptop is on or off.

Options allow the user to define a theft perimeter, set volumes on alarms, automatically arm the card at startup, screen saver activation, and/or suspend/hibernate state. If an armed system is carried beyond a perimeter specified by the user, the manufacturer assumes theft and invokes responses such as preventing access to the operating system, securing passwords and encryption keys, and sounding an audible alarm.

2. Password maintenance

How many times have you or your staff stored your passwords on a cheat sheet, one you try to keep hidden?

For less than $75, applications allow you to manage your passwords and log in automatically. The tool will save user names and passwords with heavy encryption and also generate random passwords to maximize password strength. In addition it allows you to backup your passwords and copy them between computers while defeating keyloggers by not using the keyboard to type passwords.

Imagine how easily you can navigate through all the sites you visit frequently. The password manager tool is portable and runs from a USB key, so there is nothing to install on your computers, and you can even sync your passwords to WindowsMobile and Palm operating systems. It works with Internet Explorer, AOL/MSN, and Firefox.

3. Handwriting recognition

Are your typing skills slowing you down?

Digital pen tools let you write anywhere on your computer screen in smooth digital ink. The application instantly converts your writing into text, using advanced handwriting-recognition software for Microsoft Windows-based, pen-enabled computers.

This functionality is bundled with Ultra-Mobile PCs, electronic white boards, pen tablets, and other writing devices, and is fast becoming an industry standard for natural handwritten input. You can also mark up your screen, automate routine tasks using handwritten shortcuts, and perform context-aware recognition in forms.

4. Digital phone messages

Eliminate paper telephone messages with economical software. You can digitize message taking and tracking so you know at a glance how many messages have not been returned and where they’ve been assigned.

Icons and color coding are based on message status for easy recognition in your inbox. You won’t have to decipher your staff’s handwriting (or they, yours!) and with point and click, the email-like applications will even remember details of previous callers and automatically fill them in.

5. Electronic forms

Nurses fill out the same forms over and over. Why not scan your forms instead and convert them into writable electronic forms? Not only can you save time and cost associated with paper forms, but you can keep all your forms current and available electronically - even if your staff must occasionally use a form in printed format.

Scanning software applications can detect labels, fields, tables, and graphics in your existing forms, and can also convert Microsoft Word forms into electronic forms with field names and attributes.

Get your hundred dollar bill out now and become more productive with just a little bit of IT help in your practice!

Rosemarie Nelson is a principal with the MGMA healthcare consulting group. She conducts educational seminars and provides keynote speeches on a variety of healthcare-technology and operational topics. Drawing upon her diverse experience, Nelson provides practical solutions to help medical groups succeed in their practices. She may be reached via