Toolkits

Digital Camera - Point & Shoot - Deployment and Support

Thinking through the deployment of equipment is just as important as actually shipping the gear out to sites.  Cutting corners before sending digital cameras out into the field can result in hidden costs down the road, unhappy customers, and a headache for support staff.  It is critical to take some time for planning before even thinking about calling a vendor to place an order for equipment.

Planning

Take a moment to decide how the end sites will be supported by your organization.  Regardless of whether individual sites will be making purchases, or if all purchases will be made in a single order, there is a need to establish a baseline of standardized equipment, required consumables, and intended support system.

  • How many cameras need to go to each site? Will every user of the system have their own camera, will each telemedicine platform have their own camera, or will there only be a single camera for the department or clinic?
  • Will sites need backup batteries for their cameras?  How many?
  • If cameras break, will they be shipped back to a central program office for replacement and warranty work, or will the individual sites be responsible for contacting the vendor or manufacturer?
  • If cameras wear out or break, will the program office have the capacity to provide a replacement device?  How many replacement cameras are needed?
  • Will the program office establish standard settings for the cameras before sending them to the sites?  This can help troubleshooting down the road, but has an up-front cost to configure each camera.  If individual sites are purchasing their own cameras, will there be a guide created to explain the preferred settings for the camera?
  • What is the plan when the camera is no longer on the market and a site needs to purchase a new device?  Will there be another camera selection, or will the site be allowed to choose its own device?  Who will be responsible for supporting the new device?

Purchasing

With the planning out of the way, it is now time to make purchasing decisions.  Depending on the answers to the above questions, this may be as simple as telling the sites to find a camera on their own.  There are often benefits to purchasing devices in bulk, and there may be a way to get discounts if purchasing a high-enough quantity of cameras.  Try to establish a relationship with the vendors and resellers.

A healthy relationship with a camera reseller can help in several ways.  Aside from the possible financial benefits, it may be prudent to discuss extended warranties for sites. It may also be possible to find out how many of the cameras are left in stock, and whether or not the cameras are going to be phased out soon.  It may turn out that the camera selected for deployment won't be on the market within a few months.

Deployment

Talking with the end sites is critical when planning a deployment.  If key information is not passed along, equipment may wind up sitting in a warehouse or loading dock, or, even worse, may go to the wrong location.  Getting the end sites involved in deployment planning early can ensure everyone knows what to expect, and can mitigate feelings that the cameras are just being “dumped” on the sites.

If the cameras are all being received by a central program office, temporary warehouse or storage space may be needed, depending on the number of cameras being received.  Being able to dedicate space to the receiving and staging of digital cameras can be beneficial, as it keeps other activities from impeding various deployment processes.

Significantly more staging room may be required if the cameras will be programmed with default settings in a central program office.  Clear areas should be established for cameras that are ready to ship, and cameras that are awaiting configuration.  Ensure that all necessary components of the cameras make it back into the box.  If spare batteries or chargers are being included, it may be useful to add them to the camera box before shipping them to the end sites.

Support

Depending on formal or informal service level agreements with the end sites, support may be a non-issue for a central office.  That said, a mechanism for reporting problems in the end sites should be available.  If sites are having issues with the camera, it can be important to know what the problem is and where it is located.  Is the camera too difficult to use?  This may require additional user training.  Is the camera wearing out?  Widespread reports of this may be a sign that the cameras are reaching the end of their life and may need to be replaced.

Work with the sites when the cameras first arrive.  Ask if there are any problems or issues with the devices, and, if possible, ask for test images to be sent for review.  This allows a central project office to ensure that the cameras have been received, unpacked, and used by the end sites.  Any problems can be identified immediately and resolved quickly.

When all of the work of deploying the cameras is complete, it may be a short matter of time before the assessment and deployment process needs to begin again.  Take notes of issues experienced in the field, and of support problems, as this can help drive more informed camera decisions in the next round of assessment.  Work with the end sites to refine user needs and camera capabilities.

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