Computer on Wheels (COWs)

Man standing near COW
Man standing near COW

Computers on Wheels (COWs) are laptops or small PCs that are mounted onto desks with wheels. COWs are being used in hospitals by medical personnel to track patient admissions and records.The COWs used in hospitals are usually equipped with EMR and DSS systems and can be connected to non-networked diagnostic equipment. The main users of COWs are nurses who go from room to room in the hospital to see patients. Nurses will pull their cart to each patients bedside and use it as necessary.

COWs also retain the uses of a regular computer. Some COWs even have drawers to hold medicine and other medical supplies such as gauze.


  • Connects to hospitals wireless network and automatically updates EMRs/DSSs
  • Nurses can create and edit EMRs at bedside and access DSSs
  • Shows lab results to nurses
  • Connects to diagnostic equipment and downloads diagnostic information (Ex's: Blood Pressure, Temperature)
  • Holds prescription medicine and can be used to scan prescriptions before they are given to patients
  • Holds other medical supplies such as gauze and


  • Saves money
    • instead of having a computer in every room, you just have one per nurse on staff. Nurses take care of multiple rooms
  • Saves time and lives
    • Have information at your fingertips instead of waiting on paper charts and physically retrieving lab results.


  • Can be bulky in small hospitals
  • If left unattended
    • raises fire code issues
      • probably against fire codes if left in hallway with its charging cord stretching across the hallway
    • raises security issues
      • holds patient information
      • can carry prescription drugs
      • easy to steal!
  • Battery must be charged constantly
  • Personnel has to be trained to use it

Web Resources/Citations/References
Case Study: Dealing with Computers on Wheels

Hospital Safety

Related Terminology:

COW(s): Computer on wheels
EMR: Electronic Medical Record
DSS: Decision Support System