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Hospital Use of WiFi a Scottish First

January 23, 2008 11:04 AM

The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley is the first hospital in Scotland to introduce WiFi technology to track equipment.

And in another breakthrough RAH scientists are looking at the potential of allowing  medical staff to use laptops and mobile phones on wards thanks to the integrated information system.

The telecommunications technology is already saving staff time by tracking tagged mobile, life saving equipment, such as infusion pumps and blood pressure monitors, as they move around the building.

Led by Clinical Scientist Jason Britton and his team at the hospital, there are now 60 monitors discretely attached to the ceilings of a number of wards and the accident and emergency department.

Around £70,000 has been invested in installing the technology, and Mr Britton believes that this will be recouped through savings in staff time.

He said:  “I first had this idea when one of my Medical Physics colleagues mentioned at a meeting that considerable amounts of time were being wasted by technical staff in finding medical devices for routine maintenance.”

The technology uses tags, with unique identification numbers, and they constantly send out this number using radiowaves to the readers or receivers.

These readers can tell the location of tagged equipment from the received signals, and staff can call up a floorplan of the hospital which will pinpoint the location within five metres.

Mr Britton added: “The technology can improve efficiency considerably because it should reduce the amount of time clinical staff spend trying to find portable medical devices which move between different areas of the hospital and therefore use this more effectively in caring for patients.

“Maintenance staff also benefit from knowing exactly where equipment is when it is time to undertake planned preventative maintenance of portable medical devices.”

The strength of the signals is so low that the technology does not interfere with medical equipment and infection control issues with the tags have been overcome relatively easily.

Now science staff are starting to investigate using the hi-tech WiFi system to integrate laptop computers for staff use, avoiding the need to look for a network socket.

Mr Britton said:  “Potentially this system can also be used for telephone communications.

“Theoretically Dual mode Mobile phones can be integrated with the telecommunications system within the hospital and doctors who need information about a patient can quickly contact a colleague.

“This gives staff greater freedom to work around the hospital, and it’s hoped that the system will be extended to cover the RAH and eventually to other NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde sites.”

Marie Martin, General Manager, Diagnostics for Clyde, said: “This is an exciting advance because we are using technology to locate equipment so that it is available for repair, maintenance, or for direct patient care.

“I am sure in the future we will wonder how we ever managed without this type of technology.”

Ends
For more information contact Susan Carden, Communications Officer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 305 0305/201 4429.

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