Monash neurology ward trials wireless

The Monash Medical Centre's neurology ward in Melbourne is trialling the use of wireless and healthcare mobility applications for patient care.Dr.

The Monash Medical Centre's neurology ward in Melbourne is trialling the use of wireless and healthcare mobility applications for patient care.

Dr. Liza Heslop, director for CHSOM, said wireless handheld devices were being used by doctors and nurses to obtain pathology and patient history reports, while tablet PCs enabled them to receive and display larger reports such as X-rays at the patient's bedside.

The wireless and healthcare mobility project, called mWard, has been developed by the Centre for Health Services and Operations Management (CHSOM) at Monash University together with Symbol Technologies, an enterprise mobility products and solutions provider. The entire project is costing around AU$150,000 to AU$200,000.

"This represents a huge change in the healthcare industry, where patient information usually consists of handwritten notes and hard copy reports stored in different places. By making a more comprehensive array of information more readily accessible where it is most needed, we can improve patients' hospital experiences dramatically," Heslop said.

Heslop said the project's main aim is to "speed up the flow of patient information, and increase accuracy, eliminating the errors and double handling that can occur when hard copies of information are misplaced or take too long to locate".

"By giving doctors, nurses and other caregivers access to correct, up-to-the-minute information wirelessly, hospitals can work more efficiently and reduce potential mistakes such as administering the wrong treatment to patients," she said.

Heslop said that health workers spent a significant amount of time and effort seeking information to make the next key decision about a patient's treatment.

"We believe this technology will allow the hospital to run more efficiently, enabling us to treat more patients. Instead of spending hours waiting to access information, hospital staff will be able to treat and discharge patients quickly and accurately," said Heslop.

Dr. David Ramsay, Stroke liaison manager, told ZDNet Australia that any medical staff who use the new technology would need to undergo training beforehand. The Monash Medical Centre is currently looking at what hardware is most useful for the project and will, over the next year, improve the quality of the technology and reduce operational costs for the ward.

Ramsay said other departments in the hospital have expressed their interest in the technology and are looking forward to the development of new computer systems in the next 2 to 3 years. He said he could see other hospitals implementing the same technology within the next 4 to 5 years.

When patients are admitted to Monash Medical Centre's neurology ward, doctors and nurses receive information -- such as pathology results and X-Rays -- to the handheld devices through a wireless network.

Ramsay said that data security was still the main concern of the hospital and said computer technology security experts were making sure the system was as impregnable as possible.

The wireless switched network supports multiple virtual Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), each of which can be used for a different purpose, such as voice and data applications. Because the switched wireless network supports all applications on one infrastructure, there is more flexibility to use converged devices.

"This means lower costs for the organisation and a simplified work environment for doctors and nurses who now only have to carry one converged device rather than a PDA, wireless phone and pager," Heslop said.

Heslop expects the technology to allow the hospital to identify where the traffic flow comes from and allocate the costs accurately, saving on infrastructure costs.

Symbol Technologies, through its distributor Warp Systems, provides handheld computers and wireless networking infrastructure to facilitate the trial.