Ambir ADF Scanners for Healthcare – Healthcare Gadget Friday

Many love to discuss the idea of the paperless office in healthcare. This turns out to be a dream that is (at least for now) impossible to obtain. In fact, some people argue that the amount of paper you use in an office increases because an EHR can print out a whole patient record so quickly. However, the bigger issue with paper post-EHR implementation usually has to do with all of the paper that your patients bring into the office and the paper documents that your patients need to sign. One day these issues might be resolved through HIEs and digital signatures. Until then, the most important tool a physician can have in their practice is a great scanner.

I’ve told the story multiple times about my very first EHR implementation where we used one of those cheap multi function scanners in medical records because we already had it. Fast forward a month or so and we’d literally burned through that scanner. That’s when I learned my first lesson that not all scanners are created equal.

I’ve had the powerful, but expensive Fujitsu scanners listed on my EMR Technology page for a long time. I know a lot of doctors offices that use these and they are just work horses that with some simple regular maintenance last forever. My biggest problem with these scanners has been their price. I remember how hard it was for me to convince a practice that it was worth the hefty price tag.

Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i and Ambir ImageScan Pro 930u

The good news is that healthcare now has another option in the Ambir ADF scanners. Ambir’s been in the scanner business for quite a while, but these ADF scanners are a relatively new addition to their scanner line up. I’ve had the chance to use both their Ambir ImageScan Pro 820i (See Amazon Listing) and their new Ambir ImageScan Pro 930u and can say I was quite pleased with both scanners.

I won’t bore you with all the specific specs for each scanner since you can read those on the website. I’ll just cover some of the highlights. The obvious difference between the 820i and the 930u is the speed. They do 25 ppm and 40 ppm (black and white) respectively. Seeing those numbers shows a stark contrast, but to be honest I never felt like the 820i was slow and I expect it would be fast enough for most ambulatory offices.

The 930u also has the fabulously named “Ultrasonic misfeed detection.” Isn’t that a great name? Per the websites it, “Stops jams and double-feeds before the happen.” Although, in the time I’ve been using both scanners I’ve never had problems with either scanner having a problem.

I personally love the robust scanning software that comes with both scanners. In fact, if anything there might be too many options to choose from in how you want to configure your scanner. I’m sure they could improve this with a little better interface that does a better job hiding some of the more advanced options and bringing out those options that people really care to configure most often. Although, as a techguy I loved having all the options at my disposal. The only trouble is that many practices don’t have a tech person who will wade through the options to find the best configuration. Thus my suggestion to make it feel simpler. The good part is that most people will configure it once and then not worry about it again.

The on-scanner buttons are simple and basically lean on the software in the background to do the heavy lifting. One button that I wish they had was a way to quickly switch between Front Side, Back Side and Duplex scanning. It’s pretty annoying to have to go into the software to change this setting. A button on the scanner to toggle through those settings would be ideal.

I’m not sure why, but the 820i also feels like a better designed, more sturdy product than the 930u. The 820i has the smoother edges which also adds to its visual appeal, but there’s something about it that makes it feel like a much more solid scanner than the 930u. I’m not sure if the 930u just uses cheaper plastic or something, but it doesn’t have the same well designed feel of the 820i. I wouldn’t say the 930u has a poor design, but when comparing the two side by side you can see the difference. I also love the flip up tray (820i) better than the slide in tray (930u), but that might be personal preference.

They’re both quite compact designs for an ADF scanner. I’m not sure you could really get a smaller footprint than what they’ve done with both of these scanners. Another great feature is that the scanners support ID scanning as well. Considering the number of licenses and insurance cards that we scan in healthcare, this is great.

Most EHR vendors will be glad to hear that it supports the popular TWAIN driver which I think most EHR vendors use to interface with scanners. The TWAIN driver automatically rotates pages, adjusts brightness, and autocrops images to minimize file size and increase OCR accuracy. Other features include: auto page sizing, blank page removal and auto deskew.

All in all I was quite pleased with the Ambir ADF scanners. I couldn’t find any major problems with them in all my tests and use of the scanner. I’ll be adding them as an EMR and HIPAA approved product on my EMR Technology page.

If you’ve used the Ambir scanners or other scanners, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Full Disclosure: Ambir has been an advertiser on the site since 1/2010.