September 20, 2006
Wireless Made Simple

Deploying a universal wireless infrastructure can position an organization for future growth.

Two trends are converging in the hospital environment: One is the paperless hospital, the result of the growing adoption of electronic patient records, and the other is the concept of the "virtual hospital," where hospitals are turning traditional workflows inside out. For example, instead of moving patients to different beds or rooms for fixed services, such as ECG monitoring of cardiac patients, the care now comes to the patient. The services brought to the room can flex dynamically based on the acuity of the patient. But for either of these concepts to succeed, hospitals need to instantaneous information and communication flows.

Health care workers are the truest mobile workforce, moving from patient to patient, department to department, and crisis to crisis. As equipment and procedures become increasingly high-tech and buildings and campuses grow larger and most dispersed, the challenges of connecting people, information and resources have grown exponentially. To keep pace with these communications requirements, hospitals are becoming increasingly reliant on wireless technologies and applications.

Hospitals often have addressed their wireless needs reactively, sometimes deploying multiple ad hoc systems to provide coverage for wireless applications and services including cellular telephones, Wi-Fi, wireless patient monitoring, paging and public safety radio. While this approach has helped hospitals make the initial transition from wired to wireless communications, the fragmentation creates operational inefficiencies. Installing new wireless systems on an as-needed basis is costly and can be highly disruptive to hospital operations. In addition, in the absence of a well-coordinated installation plan, there is a possibility of generating interference among wireless systems, which can significantly degrade performance.

As wireless applications become increasingly important, hospitals must take a deliberate, strategic approach to their wireless infrastructure requirements. Rather than deploying multiple disparate systems, hospitals need to pursue a universal solution--a single, flexible infrastructure over which they can support their entire portfolio of critical services and applications. This sort of multi-use solution unlocks the promise of wireless by overcoming in-building coverage issues and ensuring reliable performance throughout the facility. Moreover, a properly implemented system will readily adapt to evolving requirements enabling the hospital to add new wireless services and applications easily and cost-effectively without disrupting hospital spaces or existing services. Benefits Across the Spectrum

A universal wireless network can bring the power of mobile computing to every clinician, operating room and patient, creating a significant competitive advantage for the hospital. The ability to fully embrace wireless services and applications enables hospitals to support their clinical and IT workflows more efficiently and cost-effectively while also improving patient safety and quality of care. A universal wireless solution helps clinicians, patients and the IT support staff who will maintain the wireless network.

Physicians, nurses and other medical staff can operate more efficiently when they have constant communication while on the move. In addition, they can perform with increased confidence knowing that they have access to the most up-to-date electronic medical records anywhere they are working in the hospital.

During their stay in the hospital, patients can enjoy the use of their own cell phones, handheld devices and laptops to stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues. And, family members waiting outside delivery rooms can communicate good news to family and friends.

With the flexibility of a universal solution, hospital IT staff can readily adapt to evolving wireless requirements without the expense and disruption of adding a discrete system for each new wireless device. In addition, maintaining peak performance for a single integrated solution is much easier and less expensive than managing multiple separate systems. Three Key Features

Universal wireless networks are the smart choice for hospitals looking to enhance the communication that is fundamental to decision making and patient safety. When it comes time to research and select a solution, there are three key features to consider.

A single, universal wireless infrastructure means hospitals can simultaneously deploy a full spectrum of wireless applications and services, including a wireless local area network for portable computers and computers on wheels, cellular services for mobile phones, telemetry for patient monitoring, paging and public safety.

An adaptable infrastructure enables hospitals to transparently activate new wireless services without disrupting hospital operations. This flexibility allows hospitals to deploy a wireless infrastructure with confidence, knowing it will support current and future applications and wireless services.

An intelligent network is constructed with active elements that can be proactively monitored and controlled through a familiar, intuitive interface. This ease of control ensures hospital-quality reliability and gives IT staff a user-friendly mechanism for managing the entire wireless infrastructure.

With such a system in place, hospitals can support all of their current wireless communications needs while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to new, perhaps unanticipated, future wireless requirements.

Cathy Zatloukal is president and CEO of MobileAccess Networks, Vienna, Va.

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