From pencils to PDAs: ITSPA sees evolution of wireless technology in health care

Dallas 31 October 2005With an increasing volume of patient data, the health care industry is driving the next generation of wireless innovation, using technology to enhance patient care, avoid errors and increase connectivity for medical staff. Representing more than 300 technology consultants around the nation, the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA) has identified health care organisations as the industry responsible for revolutionizing wireless technology.

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ITSPA members report that nurses are frequently driving the bulk of technology integration because of their constant need to access data while on the go. Nurses can now use handheld devices and the hospital's wireless network to contact one another, receive new tasks and update patient data, drastically increasing staff efficiency while maintaining patient care levels.

While hospitals, clinics and family practitioners want to increase efficiency and productivity by using wireless technology, the biggest challenge most health care offices face is security of sensitive information. This increased need for protection has led to innovations in data security that ensure emerging technologies don't put patient information at risk.

"As the use and maintenance of these applications grow more complex, the best option for any size health care organisation is to utilize a technology expert", stated Russell Morgan, president of ITSPA. "These solution providers will be familiar with the legal regulations while making sure you have the best options available to maximize employee productivity and patient satisfaction, as well as insure the solutions meet your data protection requirements."

Many hospitals are using IP telephony and wireless technology to improve and enhance patient service while increasing the efficiency of insurance claims. Logicalis, an ITSPA member consulting company, has helped several health care providers integrate IP telephony and wireless data/voice-over wireless Internet protocol (VoWIP) technologies, resulting in better patient care, faster insurance claims, improved scheduling of hospital staff and superior security measures.

"Hospitals are adopting wireless and IP telephony at an astounding rate to take advantage of the convenience of having a single network for data, voice and video", stated Ron Temske, director of IP communications for Logicalis. "When combined with a detailed security strategy to protect patient information, these technologies provides increased productivity and flexibility for employees and patients."

According to Russell Morgan, solution providers are marrying the advantages of wireless with centralized data management, allowing health care personnel to collect data via handheld devices, but store that data in a secure central location. A solution provider with experience in health care should be able to help with the design, installation and administration of a comprehensive wireless strategy.

In a quick guide describing what's happening in health care technology today, ITSPA has a few useful recommendations for its members.

More than other businesses, hospitals exist in an ever-changing physical environment. Large machines can break up wireless signals and hinder wireless networks, and clinics and hospitals are often adding new machinery or moving equipment from room to room. Technology can now dynamically assess changes in the layout of the hospital and automatically configure networks to maintain a strong signal.

Every hospital should have appropriate security components including firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spam software and intrusion prevention software. In addition to these basic security essentials, hospitals need strong authentication protocols to manage control of who gets to access the network and a wireless device management plan to ensure that any data on these devices is also well protected. Security means protecting both your network and your devices, whether you add wireless to your technology infrastructure or not.

When deciding on using wireless devices in your health care organisation, technology professionals can help determine whether tablet PCs, PDAs or cell phones are best for your staff and patients.

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA) is a national, non-profit alliance serving as a reliable and credible resource for businesses hoping to take advantage of the benefits of new technology. ITSPA is dedicated to helping small and medium-size businesses adopt technology and grow by using local solution providers to solve business challenges.


Leslie Versweyveld

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