The Trouble with Wireless

So many of us take wireless for granted these days that I was taken aback when I recently read that one-third of US hospitals have implemented wireless systems. I remembered interviewing a network specialist for an article for Acuity Care Technology in 2006, pulled out some notes, and it turns out that hospitals are still struggling with the same issues today that they were three years ago: physical and technical connectivity issues, satisfying the needs of users, and network security and management.

Granted, any business office would have similar issues. However, in a hospital, the loss of service in a wireless device—say, maybe a monitor—could mean life or death.

The network specialist I spoke to in 2006, worked for hospital that was in the process of implementing a distributed antenna system (DAS), which is financially a big bite to chew. To ensure return on investment, the hospital had the DAS customized to ensure coverage for laptops, telemetry, phones, as well as emergency and FM radios and pagers. We’re used to spending money on medical technology, because it’s something that is directly applied in patient care. I suspect that the investment necessary for healthcare IT will require a whole new mindset not only in hospital administration, but for all hospital staff, especially given the state of the economy.

And speaking of hospitals and technology, I missed an announcement last week regarding a new transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) transducer for neonatal cardiac imaging. The device, a product of Royal Philips Electronics, is approximately one third of the size of other transducers and is reportedly going to be available this summer. I didn’t find any further information about it on the Philips website, but Medgadget has an image and additional information.