Spending on wireless technologies is soaring among United States health care providers, according to ITSPA

Dallas 12 October 2004Although wireless technology adoption among United States health care providers is relatively new, a recent FocalPoint Group study indicates the industry will invest $7 billion in this technology by 2010, reported the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA), a national, non-profit alliance that helps small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) understand how technology and local technology providers can help them succeed.

Advertisement

"SMB decision makers in the health care industry are turning to mobile and wireless technology, combined with WIFI networks and care-critical applications and content, to improve the quality of their work and patient care", stated ITSPA Sales Vice President Chuck Sharp. "The result is better, faster health care at reduced cost."

"For example, mobile medical technology, when integrated with health care enterprise IT infrastructure, enables SMB health care practitioners to quickly locate medical information", Mr. Sharp stated. "This helps them spend more time with patients, make more informed decisions and fewer errors, and reduce costs by locating less expensive drugs."

As wireless technology has evolved, so has the array of options for improving health care applications and functions. SMB health care decision makers are looking for mobile technologies that foster faster and better decision making, as well as allow them to access patient medical information more rapidly.

"Many wireless applications are proving their usefulness by SMB doctors and nurses on a daily basis", Mr. Sharp stated. "Typically, wireless networks are now deployed to perform functions such as admission assessments, bedside charting, ordering drugs, supply inventory, patient records, nurse shift reports and emergency communications, just to name a few."

"The critical function performed by wireless devices is that they put the data entry and retrieval capability at the point of patient care", Mr. Sharp added. "This saves time and ensures accuracy because the caregiver, whether a doctor or nurse, doesn't have to walk to another office or wait until later to enter new information."

SMB health care practitioners use a variety of technologies in their mobile, wireless environment. Typically, the workhorses include wireless local area networks (LANs) running on the 802.11 standard that support notebook PCs. Many handheld devices are used to communicate wirelessly, as well, such as palm and sub-notebook-size devices using Microsoft's Windows CE operating system.

"The convergence of small computers and cellular phones is making its way into this arena, too", Mr. Sharp stated, "along with personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smart phones. Another trend involves health care SMBs moving to small computing. In other words, they're adopting small-footprint PCs for their work environment. They're also looking at the PC to be more than just a tool for data crunching. They want something that will help improve overall communications and collaboration."

Although handheld devices are the health care tools, software solutions are the "brains" that provide better care and treatment. Mobile technology helps connect SMB doctors and nurses with dynamic information such as patient scheduling and management systems, electronic medical records, e-prescription writers and clinical and drug references.

"With wireless, mobile technology, SMB health care providers are catching up with financial and manufacturing sectors as far as adopting automated processes", Mr. Sharp stated. "This will enable them to take advantage of the efficiency gains achieved by large businesses and banks."

SMB health care organisations that are considering wireless technology applications should first identify their business needs, advised ITSPA's Technology Committee, which is made up of IT directors from the nation's most successful solution providers.

"There's no doubt that medical communities will replace paper-based processes with rapid, wireless communications and integrated, real-time data, PDAs and a variety of other mobile devices", stated ITSPA Healthcare Technology Committee member Robyn Schlabach, RN, who is a principal with the Belgard Group Inc. "But first SMB health care decision makers must ask many questions early in the process to ensure the wireless solutions their companies adopt are appropriate and stand the test of time."

ITSPA Technology Committee members offered the following recommendations:

  • Determine what data should be distributed wirelessly. Small form factors, such as PDAs, require less information than, say, tablets or laptops. SMBs should assess carefully the data requirements of employees who have different mobile devices.
  • Decide which mobile devices should be supported. Before purchasing wireless devices, it's important to survey who will use the devices and how will they be applied to meet specific needs.
  • Select a wireless architecture that's easily accessed. Adopt a Web-based solution that provides a flexible, multi-channel information delivery system. Such a solution can support a variety of health care applications. Wireless devices such as PDAs, tablets and laptops usually are bundled with browser software that can utilize these applications.
  • Integrate data to increase efficiency. Mobile devices should be usable, efficient and offer a thoughtfully designed interface. In other words, they should be simple to use and provide applications that users really need and are based on real-world health care situations.
  • Web-based security and support is best. By providing health care applications and security through Web-based solutions, rather than on mobile devices themselves, SMBs can ensure that sensitive patient data is protected and HIPAA compliance standards are fulfilled. Because all business and health care information is housed on the Web, users automatically have access to the latest applications and information.
  • Get IT support from a solution provider. Managing many mobile devices can tax any company's IT capabilities. Solutions providers that specialize in wireless can help set up procedures to deploy applications, upgrades, device replacements, data storage and virus protection.
  • Understand wireless device limitations. Mobile technology is improving but devices such as PDAs, tablets and small laptops have a short battery life, small screens and limited data capabilities. The next generation of these products is slowly reaching the market and will include expanded screen size and improved resolution, longer-lasting batteries, larger memory and many new peripherals that will enable advanced features.

ITSPA, the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping small and medium companies adopt technology and grow by using local solution providers to solve business problems. SMB customers, solution providers, along with manufacturers, publishers and networking companies who use the solution provider channel, are expected to benefit from the demand for technology generated from its programmes. ITSPA began operations with a funding grant from Hewlett Packard.


Leslie Versweyveld

[Medical IT News][Calendar][Virtual Medical Worlds Community][News on Advanced IT]