Project casebook: Health sector

A raft of wireless healthcare projects are already underway across the country. Here Wireless profiles some of the latest applications in technology that are available for the NHS

Project casebook: Health sector

Smartcards fight off risk of infection

In the UK, many hospitals are now using contactless smartcards to control physical access into their buildings aswell as logical access to the IT systems that house confidential patient data.

Medical professionals can also use smartcards to access sensitive patient data on a network. So aswell as safeguarding the security of a patients’ personal information and statistics, using a smartcard
for logical access can also create efficiencies in terms of time.

‘One surprising area where this technology is making an impact is in infection control,’ explains Holly Sacks, VP marketing and corporate strategy, HID Global.

‘In just a few hours, a doctor could see as many as 20 patients on five different wards, accessing different areas of the hospital and different computer systems as she goes. With this many potential touch-points, it’s easy to see how infection can be spread,’ she adds.

UCL hospital pioneers a private mobile network

University College London Hospital (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust has deployed a private mobile network from the business communications consultancy Azzurri. The seven-year deal is expected to save £1.7m in costs and bring a raft of benefits.

Azzurri installed pico cells across the trust’s seven hospitals to link up campuses all across London, allowing patients with mobile phones access to the network.

Patients will then benefit in several ways. On arrival they receive text alerts and comprehensive details about their scheduled appointments. The system can also use location-based services to make sure the patients are heading in the right direction and to the right building at the hospital.

The Trust will gain more resilient coverage and reduced expenditure as UCLH has a managed services agreement with Azzurri. It pays a flat fee for a set contractual term with everything sitting nicely under operational expenditure (OPEX).

As a Category 1 responder, UCLH is designated as a major trauma centre, meaning it is vital UCLH’s staff remain in touch at different locations in London. When an incident like 7/7 occurs, mobile networks may be shut down or overwhelmed, but the private network will keep communications open.

“The pico cell-driven private network allows critical communications to continue to take place,” adds John MacMillan, client director, Azzurri Communications.

Ipswich porters push to respond

Ipswich Hospital’s NHS Trust is using push-to-talk communications from InTechnology. This will essentially transform mobile phones into ‘walkie-talkies’ in order to improve response times to its portering service.

Previously a ‘pager’ service proved to be extremely inefficient and there was often a delay of several minutes before porters receiving pager calls from the control desk could walk to the nearest phone to reply.

There was also no way of knowing exactly where each porter was situated in relation to the tasks that were allocated and this, of course, led to problems with porter-efficiency.

Now porters respond immediately to calls sent individually to them by the control desk, with no details being audible to bystanders.

This has saved around four minutes per call, significantly improving patient moves per week while at the same time reducing the time spent per move.

Midwives push for BlackBerry solutions

Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust is changing the way midwives take notes during consultations in the community with the aid of BlackBerry smartphones and electronic pen-and-paper technology.

The solution enables the secure remote digital notation of patient information and has saved the trust an estimated saving of over £220,000 a year – halving the typical time spent on administration.

Nurses are now able to refocus their efforts on patient consultation and care as the BlackBerry and PaperIQ combination captures what is written and automatically sends it to the maternity units’ patient-records system.

Essentially, says Daniel Morrison-Gardiner, RIM senior public sector sales manager, the digital pen transfers the information to the BlackBerry smartphone via Bluetooth. This is then sent back to the trust via the secure BlackBerry data connection between the smartphone and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, before being processed by the PaperIQ server.

The pen itself does not actually capture any visual pen strokes, but simply captures ‘x’ and ‘y’ co-ordinates in relation to the paper form. This means that the communication between the pen and the BlackBerry smartphone contains no confidential information.

Once the information reaches the server you can save an exact copy of the handwritten form – save it as a pdf, convert it to computerised text or directly integrate the data with a clinical system, adds Morrison-Gardiner.

The solution, which has been deployed to 130 midwives in the community, across four hospitals and 320 different sites, was favoured over laptops with 3G cards which had shorter battery lives and were thought to interfere with patient care.

Broomfield to become smart hospital

Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust is rolling out 300 WLAN access points as part of a new five-storey wing at Broomfield hospital, which includes 365 beds, five operating theatres, an A&E department, maternity unit, pharmacy, and even a rooftop helipad.

The deployment is an extension of Aerohive Networks’ WLAN infrastructure. The trust’s IT director, Mike Casey says: ‘Alongside traditional healthcare products such as Medical Tablet PCs and computers-on-wheels, we want to use RFID to track beds and valuable equipment. Effectively we want to make the hospital “self aware,”’ he says.

By enabling applications like the RFID tagging of equipment such as mattresses and trolleys, Casey is hoping to help to improve upon infection control.

‘Moving forward, we will be investing in mobile devices that allow us to utilise the 3G and wireless network, helping to reduce call costs; and to provide a modern platform for the new Wi-Fi enabled devices, like the Apple iPad, to healthcare consultants.’

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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