Wireless Computing At The Bedside

"Are wireless computers a cost effective alternative to fixed bedside computers for documenting and reviewing patient care?"

According to Andrew Galbus, a lead analyst programmer working with clinical computer applications in Rochester, MN and an MBA candidate: "Most healthcare organizations have been developing electronic medical record systems. Gaining access to the patient’s electronic record becomes a particular challenge in the hospital at the bedside. One way to give access is to put a computer at each bedside. Another option is to deploy wireless networked computers giving flexibility and potentially cost savings to the organization."

This original research paper was compiled to determine whether or not an organization could implement wireless computers for bedside documentation and review less expensively than installing a fixed workstation at every bedside. The study involved researching literature as well as conducting a survey of healthcare organizations. The survey asked questions regarding how long the organization had been using wireless and why they chose the technology. It also asked if they were able to justify the costs.


Report Highlights

  • The results show promise. They indicate that the technology is being used with justifiable benefits. Healthcare organizations are finding the technology to be worth the cost and equal to or somewhat less expensive than putting a computer at each bedside when all costs are considered.

  • In order for portable devices to be helpful for nursing, they must be small and easy enough to be able to input data. Physicians, on the other hand, need something large and fast to retrieve and view data. This is not easily matched in one device. This can lead to small handheld devices for data entry and laptops for text entry and viewing data

  • The documenting of a patient’s care is being transformed from paper to electronic. One of the major hurdles is giving caregivers access to the electronic records where and when needed. Many patient care units have several computers hooked to the network but the majority are located at desk areas or in hallways or conference rooms.

  • Most healthcare organizations could benefit from technologies like wireless mobile computing.

  • Wireless networking is here to stay. Some believe it can replace most wired networking, but many see that at a minimum, there are places where it just makes more sense than hard-wired networks.

  • Even though wireless costs have dropped, wireless systems are still too expensive for some smaller healthcare facilities.

  • Computer devices for wireless use range from handheld devices that fit in the palm of the user’s hand, also known as PDAs (personal data assistants), to complete desktop systems often connected to or integrated with a cart and special battery technology. There are also several hybrid systems much like clipboards or tablets.

  • Some providers believe that the size of the computer can be a hindrance to gaining acceptance by the patient. Having a smaller computer can help. One case described this. At Midwest Heart Specialists, a thirty-cardiologist practice in Downers Grove, Illinois, O’Tolle, a cardiac specialist stated, “We didn’t want our interaction with patients to be altered by the presence of a large cumbersome computer”

  • Safety can also be improved with wireless mobile computers and through the use of bar codes and scanners hooked to the devices. A patient’s armband can be scanned as well as a barcode on a drug to be administered. If the unit and dose match for the patient’s order, the medication can be given. This double check mechanism can greatly reduce the highly publicized errors that have occurred in some healthcare organizations.

  • Improvements in patient care can also come from a decrease in the time it takes for a care provider to call for more care for the patient Ordering a consult with a paper system normally involves writing an order on a piece of paper and getting it sent to a secretary who then transcribes the order into a computer system. This can create errors with handwriting interpretations as well as create delays. With an electronic ordering system entered directly by the care provider, delays are minimal and the accuracy of the order can be greatly improved.Care can then be given to the patient much faster (Finch, 1999). According to the Wireless LAN Alliance, time can be saved completing patient documentation, analyzing patient cases, communicating with in-hospital pharmacists, contributing to accounting-billing tasks, scheduling patients, and collaborating in meetings.




Note: The report: Wireless Computing At The Bedside is copyright by Andrew Galbus. PDA cortex thanks Mr Galbus for sharing this information with our readers.

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