Symbol Technologies helps unplug the wires at Monash Medical Center

Holtsville 05 January 2005Symbol Technologies Inc., the Enterprise Mobility company, through its value-added distributor Warp Systems, has provided handheld computers and wireless networking infrastructure to facilitate a trial of wireless and health care mobility applications at Monash Medical Center in Melbourne, Australia. The project, called mWard, has been developed by the Center for Health Services and Operations Management (CHSOM) at Monash University, also in Melbourne.


Dr. Liza Heslop, Director for CHSOM, stated: "The trial includes Symbol Technologies wireless handheld devices that enable doctors and nurses to obtain pathology and patient history reports, and NEC tablet PCs that receive and display larger reports such as X-rays - all at the patient's bedside. This represents a huge change in the health care industry, where patient information usually consists of handwritten notes and hard copy reports stored in different places. By making a more comprehensive array of information more readily accessible where it is most needed, we can improve patients' hospital experiences dramatically."

The project's chief aim is to speed up the flow of patient information, and increase accuracy, eliminating the errors and double handling that can occur when hard copies of information are misplaced or take too long to locate. By giving doctors, nurses and other caregivers access to correct, up-to-the-minute information wirelessly, hospitals can work more efficiently and reduce potential mistakes such as administering the wrong treatment to patients.

"Health workers spend a significant amount of time and effort seeking information to make the next key decision about a patient's treatment. We believe this technology will allow the hospital to run more efficiently, enabling us to treat more patients. Instead of spending hours waiting to access information, hospital staff will be able to treat and discharge patients quickly and accurately", stated Dr. Heslop.

When patients are admitted to Monash Medical Center's 26-bed neurology ward, where the mWard project is taking place, doctors and nurses receive information, such as pathology results and X-rays to the handheld device through a wireless network. This facilitates decision-making at the patient's bedside, and reduces the amount of time it takes to make and act on decisions about patient care.

Monash Medical Center is unique because it is the first Australian health care site to run a converged data and voice infrastructure securely using a switched wireless network. The Symbol Technologies wireless switch assists the network in prioritizing data. It also enables each device to have a level of security that is appropriate to both the device and its function, without limiting its performance.

The wireless switched network supports multiple virtual Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), each of which can be used for a different purpose, such as voice and data applications. This means that the quality of service for each application can be maintained, which is essential for an organisation like Monash Medical Center. Traditional wireless networks don't support multiple virtual WLANs, so performance can suffer.

In non-switched wireless networks, separate infrastructures are required for different functions, like voice calls, paging and data transfer. Because the switched wireless network supports all applications on one infrastructure, there is more flexibility to use converged devices. This means lower costs for the organisation and a simplified work environment for doctors and nurses who now only have to carry one converged device rather than a PDA, wireless phone and pager.

"The technology has enormous potential for the future. We could use it to provide value added services for patients, such as wireless phones and wireless hotspots for use while in the hospital", stated Dr. Heslop. The technology also creates opportunities for the hospital to run its network more effectively. For example, hospital tenants such as pathology labs typically use and pay for a portion of a hospital's infrastructure. A switched wireless network allows the hospital to identify where the traffic flow comes from and allocate the costs accurately, saving on infrastructure costs.

Warp Systems has provided the mWard project with Symbol wireless rugged PDAs with integrated barcode scanners including associated peripherals, and in-kind professional services contributions.

Symbol Technologies Inc. is a recognized worldwide expert in enterprise mobility, delivering products and solutions that capture, move and manage information in real time to and from the point of business activity. Symbol enterprise mobility solutions integrate advanced data capture products, radio frequency identification technology, mobile computing platforms, wireless infrastructure, mobility software and world-class services programmes under the Symbol Enterprise Mobility Services brand. Symbol enterprise mobility products and solutions are proven to increase workforce productivity, reduce operating costs, drive operational efficiencies and realize competitive advantages for the world's leading companies.

Leslie Versweyveld

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