Growing number of US hospitals goes wireless using 3Com's AirConnect solution

Santa Clara 26 September 2001United States hospitals and clinics are relying increasingly on 3Com wireless network solutions to streamline patient-to-physician communications and accelerate patient care. Using secure, anytime, anywhere wireless links provided by 3Com AirConnect access points and PC Cards, staff people register and diagnose patients, schedule procedures, and administer medications with greater efficiency than ever before.


"The primary goal of every hospital or clinic is to facilitate patient healing", stated Lynn Henrich, IT director at Tampa, Florida-based University Community Hospital (UCH), a part of University Community Health which began using the AirConnect solution last year. "With our 3Com wireless solution, we are affordably meeting that goal by delivering faster, friendlier quality care."

A four-campus, 1019-bed hospital system, UCH dramatically accelerated patient registrations in its Emergency Room (ER) using 3Com wireless connections. Easier and more cost-effective than using wired laptops, the 3Com wireless solution lets UCH staff flexibly register patients from any ER location. Utilising custom-built mobile carts, medical staff simply roll their wireless laptops to wherever an ER patient is located.

Using the network-driven SMS Siemens INVISION software, they input patient data. The wireless laptops instantly pass this information at Ethernet speed to one of four AirConnect access points, which distribute it to the hospital's 3Com Fast Ethernet network to rapidly complete registrations. "Rather than wasting critical time in line-ups or requiring patients to register at set locations, the 3Com wireless solution allows us to process admissions on the spot, thus empowering doctors and nurses to administer care much sooner", Lynn Henrich noted.

Thousands of miles away in America's heartland, Holland Community Hospital (HCH), a 213-bed facility in Holland, Michigan, is gaining similar benefits by using the 3Com solution to deliver wireless bedside charting. Previously, HCH's 500 doctors and nurses accessed charting data, such as patients' vital signs and medication records, on wired PCs in patient rooms. Hung above beds, the PCs were difficult to reach and required repeated log-ins, creating stressful delays in care. Now, clinicians access charting data via the hospital's modular patient care application, PerSe's Patient 1, using wireless laptops.

HCH initially considered wireless solutions from both 3Com and Cisco. However, Cisco's product would have required the hospital to run power outlets to every access point. With patient rooms already equipped with power outlets for life support machines and other equipment, additional outlets could have created fire and other safety hazards. "Our 3Com wireless network allowed us to safely transform our bedside charting into a process which upgrades our level of care and makes life easier and more relaxing for our medical teams and our patients", explained Bob Zdzinicki, HCH network administrator.

Deployed by HCH's value added reseller (VAR) Trivalent LAN Concepts of nearby Grand Rapids, the hospital is using 14 AirConnect access points and 57 mobile carts outfitted with wireless laptops with 3Com wireless LAN PC Cards. With the new wireless network, HCH removed PCs from patient rooms, making the rooms more comfortable for patients and clinicians alike. Now roving from room-to-room with mobile laptops, HCH doctors no longer need to sign onto wired PCs, a convenience which has reduced daily rounds by at least 30 minutes, allowing physicians to focus more on each patient.

HCH also uses the AirConnect solution to streamline prescription fulfillment via the network-driven Patient 1 application, enabling physicians to prescribe medications at patient bedsides. The order instantly appears on a pharmacy PC pop-up screen, eliminating the need for physicians to hand-write prescriptions and courier or fax them to pharmacies. Medical staff also use the wireless access to Patient 1 to retrieve radiology test images, such as MRIs, CAT scans, and X-rays at patients' bedsides.

In the fast-paced West Michigan Cardiology Clinic in Grand Rapids, the AirConnect solution is streamlining patient scheduling and treatments for scores of outpatients. Providing nearly fifty patients a day with a full range of cardiology services, including EKGs and vascular echocardiographies, the clinic's 12-person staff often works in hallways outside examination rooms where patient charts reside.

"Nurses, in particular, are constantly coming and going to and from our exam rooms, preparing patients", stated Judy Burns, the clinic's office manager. "With our wireless laptop in the hallway, we can answer phone calls, schedule appointments, and answer doctors' questions about patient histories, without having to rush back to our wired desktops to pull up appropriate files."

Using a single 3Com access point installed by its local VAR, Optimal Solutions, and a laptop with a 3Com wireless LAN PC Card, clinic staff enjoy fast, wireless access to Millbrook's Paradigm software to schedule appointments and WellerSoft's patient records database to input and retrieve patient information. The wireless solution also delivers high-speed wireless access to the clinic's customised anticoagulation medicine application, which facilitates accurate and timely dosing of Coumadin to patients.

UCH, HCH and West Michigan all maximise the AirConnect system's 300-foot range and support of 63 concurrent users. Moreover, to ensure the privacy of patient information as dictated by the federal government's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the 3Com solution reliably protects health care users from intruders of any kind. 3Com simplifies how people connect to information and services through easy-to-use connectivity products and solutions for people and businesses. The company also provides access infrastructures and IP services platforms for network service providers.

Leslie Versweyveld

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