TWO $1000 Mikes Disabled By 3mm Piece of Plastic…A bit of bad design

Our suburban hospital just replaced their antiquated tank with the modern, computer-based Fusion dictation system from Dolbey. This is a digital voice system, but it does NOT include speech recognition, thank Heavens.

I got there today to read out the weekend carnage, and what do I find? The laser barcode scanner on the microphone isn’t working right. This microphone is a nice little piece of equipment, a Philips SpeechMike classic with barcode reader, which retails for over $1000. I asked the director of the department if we had another one, and yes, we did, but that one had a malfunctioning barcode reader as well. I peeked inside the little red window, and activated the laser scanner…yes, really bad idea for someone who makes a living with his eyes! I could see the laser, but it appeared to be hitting above the top of the window, and not getting out to scan the barcode. There is a tiny adjustment knob at one side, and this was a little loose, and didn’t seem to change anything inside.

The Fusion system depends on barcoding at the moment; when we get this site on PACS later this year, the demographics should download from PACS automatically. Still, that is several months away. So, I could either figure out what was wrong, key in the accession numbers manually (by using the tiny trackball on the mike to select numbers on the on-screen keypad), or I could just do one long dictation, reading off the accession numbers and hoping for the best.

Being a tinkerer at heart, and having total disregard for warranty voidance, I took screwdriver in hand and disassembled the offending mike. Inside the bottom, pictured below, you can see the red window to the left, and a mirror to the right.

The next image is a little blurry (sorry, my phone doesn’t have good macro capability!) but it tells the whole story. The black box at the top of the microphone is the laser assembly. The black bar-like thing next to the red crayon is a black diffuser, which is used to direct the beam a bit so you can hold the mike more naturally. It is supposed to sit atop the laser. But the little tiny black C-shaped thing between the two is one of two tiny brackets that holds the diffuser in place and allows the little knob thing to ratchet it and hold it in place. The problem is, this tiny $.001 piece of plastic broke right off of its base (the roughly triangular thing to the left at the top of the laser housing), and rendered the whole assembly useless. Bad design. Really bad design.

Being too lazy to do anything else, I simply left the back off of the mike, and used the microswitch that is at my thumb as seen below to activate the laser. It is a little bright, and must be pointed perpendicular to the barcode, but it works. Of course, normally the microswitch would be keyed by a plastic trigger in the base. Notice the high-tech rubber band that keeps the cord from detaching. Nothing like the feel of bare circuit board in your hands…

So, problem solved temporarily. I do expect a replacement mike, with perhaps several in reserve, until Philips redesigns this really bad implementation. And, don’t even think of telling me that opening the case voids the warranty…..

One response to “TWO $1000 Mikes Disabled By 3mm Piece of Plastic…A bit of bad design

  1. we have fusion with the philips classic mikes…like the slider…better than pushing tiny buttons to start and stop dictation…but the mikes break…usually covered by warranty but you need extras because it is very common…at least when you get your interface ready you will not need the bar coder…then the mike price drops to $200…

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