by Galen Gruman

Health Care Leading the Way in IT Innovation

Aug 01, 2003 2 mins

Although electronic medical records systems are driving wireless adoption, hospital CIOs see many more uses for that network infrastructure once it’s in place. When it comes to wireless, hospitals are pioneers in these areas.

Voice over wireless. At top of the list is the use of voice over wireless IP (VoWIP) so that staff members can call each other without having to find a phone. In Springfield, Ill., the Memorial Medical Center and its neighboring St. John’s Hospital are each testing several VoWIP phones this summer. And St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., is testing a hands-free communications badge from Vocera Communications. “The biggest educational issue is to respect privacy in calls,” says CIO Tim Stettheimer. The hospital also had to adjust access point locations because the badges have a relatively small transmission range.

Transcription. Transcribing doctors’ dictations costs $15,000 to $30,000 per year for most hospital doctors, says Dr. Bruce Brown of St. Vincent’s, which is looking at PDA-delivered dictation. And it’s using tablet PCs with voice recognition capabilities.

At Ohio State University Medical Center, Dr. Andrew Thomas is looking forward to dictation capabilities on devices that will transmit the audio files to a transcription service, which will then e-mail the text back.

Internet access. Stettheimer also wants to provide wireless Internet access to patients and visitors. “I want to be able to do the same thing as Starbucks. I want that Wi-Fi label on the door,” he says. “We recently upgraded our Cisco access points to allow multiple virtual LANs for that purpose. It’s a matter of taking care of the entire person, and [computer access is] an aspect of that care.”

Delivery robots. Manufactured by FMC, the 40 machines will deliver food, linens and supplies throughout the Ohio State University Medical Center, accessing their task lists and guidance information over the 802.11b network.