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Wireless Networks Enable Safer, More Efficient Healthcare

“ giving doctors, nurses and other caregivers access to correct, up-to-the-minute information wirelessly, hospitals can work more efficiently and virtually eliminate potential mistakes…”
- Dr. Liza Heslop, Director, Centre for Health Services Operations Management

Healthcare – What Ails the Industry Thebusiness of healthcare, whether at a doctor’s office, hospital, outpatient facility or long-term care facility, is often a delicate balancing act of urgency, accuracy, privacy, regulations and technology. This balancing act can make solving issues in the healthcare industry seem like a daunting task, but with the right wireless solution, many improvements can be seen quickly and easily. Arguably, twoof the largest issues facing the healthcare industry today are worker productivity and error rates. While computers and networks have been used for some time in healthcare settings, they are still often tied to a specific, physical location, requiring the presence of the clinician to be used. Communication among healthcare workers in different areas often takes place via fixed telephones, becausemost hospital regulations prohibit the use of cell phones in many areas of the facility. For clinical professionals such as nurses and physicians – every moment they are tethered to a desktop computer or a fixed-wall phone is one moment they aren’t spending at the bedside with their patients or on the move to their next task. Increased mobility for these professionals means increasedproductivity. A more pressing issue than productivity, however, is the need to reduce the number of errors that take place every day — errors that are measured not just in dollars, but also in harm to patients. The Institute of Medicine reported in a recent study that medication errors alone cause sickness, injury or death to at least 1.5 million patients in the U.S., at a conservative cost of $3.5 billioneach year. In that same report, one of the recommendations is to use information technologies to reduce medication errors. Clearly, few industries have a greater or more compelling need for computing mobility than

the healthcare industry. After all, immediate access to patient data from anywhere in the facility can significantly reduce potentially life-threatening errors while increasinghealthcare workers’ productivity. This, in turn, improves the quality of patient care and reduces costs. Even so, regulations around patient privacy and safety can make implementing such technical solutions tricky without the help of experienced technology partners. Solutions must enable the facility to be HIPAA-compliant, and disruption during installation in a functioning facility must be kept to aminimum. Technology for the Healthcare Industry Mobile computing in a healthcare setting requires more than a notebook computer on a cart. True mobility, in the form of handheld “pocket” or wearable devices using wireless communications for real-time connectivity, requires a next-generation mobile computing infrastructure. Such an infrastructure includes the data capture technologies (such as bar-codescanning) to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the user when entering information; the mobile computers (such as PDAs) that can be used to access patient data at the point-of-care, the wireless networks to securely connect the users to the servers, and the software to manage and monitor it all. The network should be highly scalable, with high availability for maximum up-time, and it shouldsupport functions such as locationing, used to aid in inventory management, and voice over IP (VoIP), used in nurse call and other communication applications. Obviously, it needs to support HIPAA security standards, and an added bonus of wireless networks is minimal disruption to the surrounding environment during installation, which can be critical in a healthcare setting.

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