Pros and cons of wireless technology in health care addressed in new HIMSS publication

Chicago 06 June 2002From physicians toting cell phones and pagers to other health care professionals using their personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other wireless devices, a technological revolution has taken place in health care. Visit any hospital or medical practice today and the widespread adoption of wireless technology is clear. But is the greatest potential of wireless technology yet to be achieved in this arena? According to a new book, only just released by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), that answer is a definitive yes.


"Initiatives such as the reduction of medical errors and the advancement of core business strategies provide opportunities for wireless technologies to significantly transform the health care system", stated Bryan Bergeron, MD, author of The Wireless Web in Healthcare. "These technologies have the potential to save time and money and, most important, save lives."

In his book, Dr. Bergeron, a professor at Harvard and MIT, provides a critical look into the "wireless space" in health care, pointing out the positives and negatives of this technology. Specifically addressed are hot-button questions such as:

  • What impact will wireless technology have on the future practice of medicine?
  • Why should health care organisations consider investing in wireless solutions?
  • What are the likely timelines for various fixed and mobile wireless solutions to become viable in medicine?
  • How can health care organisations use wireless technologies to drive their core business strategy and give it a competitive market advantage?
  • What is the investment required to enter and participate in the "wireless space"?
  • What is the likely return on investment for health care organisations?

Dr. Bergeron compares the current thinking on wireless technologies in health care to the early days of personal computers, when some wondered if PCs would ever appear on physicians' desktops and when it was unclear what type of operating system would be used in a health care organisation. "Back then, chief information officers (CIOs) had to gamble their hospital's capital on the most likely survivor, based on their understanding of low-level characteristics of the technology as well as the financial standing of the vendors", explained Dr. Bergeron.

"Today, the situation is virtually identical for wireless technology. There are competing standards in wireless cellular communications, including at least two approaches to supporting wireless PDAs, each with their technological limitations and benefits. In addition, wireless is growing so rapidly that security issues are becoming a major concern in early installations. What is more, given the volatility of the technology sector, vendors are failing, merging, and changing their offerings and strategies every few months", Dr. Bergeron stated.

The Wireless Web in Healthcare is presented in three sections:

  1. Section one covers the history of wireless, portable devices, and the evolution of standards and protocols from their relevance in health care. It also examines the Web component of wireless technology.
  2. Section two suggests likely successful applications areas for wireless technology in health care. In addition, it examines the issue of clinician and patient buy-in with the belief that integrating wireless technology into their practice will reward them for the time and effort they invest. Also explored is the overhead associated with developing and maintaining a wireless presence against a backdrop of constant vendor and technology change.
  3. Section three looks at the human element involved in leveraging wireless technology to advance health care and improve bottom lines. It explores a strategy of convincing thought leaders and early adopters of the clinical effectiveness of wireless and using them to head a successful roll-out. Finally, this section offers a view of the future of wireless technology.

Dr. Bryan Bergeron is the author of over 300 publications in science, education, and technology, including several books on business processes and models, e-commerce, wireless technology, and applied artificial intelligence. He is also the author of several commercial software packages, including many firsts in medical and patient education.

Dr. Bergeron is a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, editor-in-chief of e.MD, technical editor of Postgraduate Medicine, on the editorial boards of Healthcare Informatics, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, and Medical Software Reviews, and is a former contributing editor to Advance for Healthcare Information Executives and MD Computing.

Bryan Bergeron is president of Archetype Technologies Inc., a technology consulting firm, and speaks internationally to educators, scientists, and government leaders. The Wireless Web in Healthcare, ISBN 0-9715301-7-3, is available at the price of $60.00 by contacting Tarsis Lopez of HIMSS.

Leslie Versweyveld

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