A Medical Device Daily

Database computing entered healthcare long ago. Y2K fears have come and gone. Internet web sites are tsunami-like pervasive.

Today, the major healthcare IT buzz seems to be “wireless,“ with a number of companies riding that particular large wave at this year's annual conference and exhibition of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS; Chicago), wrapping up today in Dallas.

At the conference, Cingular Wireless (Alpharetta, Georgia) said that healthcare professionals “for the first time now have high-speed, nationwide access to critical information“ with its introduction of a suite of services powered by the company's Wireless Edge technology. Cingular calls it “the fastest national wireless data network in the U.S.“

Cingular reported that the service is now linked up with palmOne (Milpitas, California), and healthcare solution providers Epocrates (San Mateo, California), HealthRamp (New York) and PatientKeeper (Boston).

Abhi Ingle, executive director, business solutions, for Cingular Wireless, said, “Medical professionals need fast access to critical patient and clinical information as well as the ability to write prescriptions using full-featured, easy-to-use devices even when they are beyond the four walls of the hospital or office. Cingular's alliances with the healthcare industry's leading mobile solutions providers give clinicians those capabilities through a powerful set of high-speed wireless tools.“

Cingular's framework of wireless solutions certified on the GPRS/EDGE network enables healthcare providers to deploy a mobile electronic medical record. Healthcare solutions certified on the Cingular Wireless Edge network include:

  • PatientKeeper's PatientKeeper Platform supporting wireless access to patient and clinical information, including PatientKeeper Clinical Results, PatientKeeper Charge Capture, PatientKeeper Mobile Dictation, PatientKeeper ePrescription and PatientKeeper Reference Library.
  • The Epocrates Essentials mobile clinical reference suite, which works with PatientKeeper, enabling clinicians to receive regular updates of drug, disease and diagnostics information on their wireless handhelds. Cingular Wireless said it is “the first national wireless provider to certify Epocrates Essentials for wireless wide area network use. “
  • HealthRamp's CarePoint products provide HIPAA-compliant e-prescribing from a physician's wireless handheld, including prescription drug interaction information, drug reference guide, patient medication history and formulary referencing.

Cingular said that all three platforms can be accessed via the recently introduced palmOne Treo 650, which combines a mobile phone with e-mail, messaging and web access, as well as a Palm OS organizer and digital camera. Treo 650 features data access at fast speeds via Edge; a high-resolution screen; expanded multimedia capabilities, such as video capture and playback; and Bluetooth wireless.

With Edge, Treo 650 can access accelerated data speeds averaging up to 135 kilobits per second, nearly three times the speed of a conventional wired dial-up connection, Cingular said. The Edge network is available in more than 8,500 cities and towns and along 30,000 miles of highways, according to Cingular.

Additionally, Cingular said it is building a certified portfolio of healthcare solutions for Edge-enabled Pocket PC handhelds to be released “later this year.“

Cingular, a joint venture between SBC Communications (San Ramon, California) and BellSouth (Atlanta), claims the largest digital voice and data network in the nation — the Allover network — and the largest mobile-to-mobile community of any national wireless carrier.

In another wireless announcement, healthcare products manufacturer and distributor Cardinal Health (Dublin, Ohio) said that its smart infusion information system — the first such wireless system — is “becoming the new standard among the nation's hospitals for networked IV monitoring of medication delivery at the point of care.“

It reported more than 10,000 hospital installations of smart wireless infusion pumps. Joseph Condurso, director, infusion information systems at Cardinal Health for Alaris Products, said that, with the system, “In effect, we've laid the foundation for the next advances in Clinical Information Systems; enabling convergence between 'smart' medical devices and modern IT architectures, enhancing workflow and real-time clinical decision support at the point of care.“

The Alaris Network provides wireless connectivity to the Alaris System, a modular point-of-care platform that integrates infusion, patient monitoring and clinical best practice guidelines for optimal outcomes at the point of care. This network capability enables real-time capture of medication infusion, patient monitoring and continuous quality improvement data.

“The Alaris System outcomes contributed to statistically significant reductions in the medical intensive care unit length of stay at the University of Pennsylvania Health System [UPHS; Philadelphia], which is good for the patient and for the financial margin of the hospital,“ said Stephen Smith, chief technology officer, UPHS. “By upgrading our investment in smart pumps to include the Alaris Network, we hope to enable a rapid-cycle CQI methodology with real-time intervention.“

CQI Data from the IV devices can be continuously captured, and new or modified drug libraries used with the Guardrails Suite of safety software can be transferred, house-wide, with one key push and with no disruption of clinical workflow. When combined with the Alaris Gateway, which Cardinal Health is developing, the Alaris Network will be able to share data with other clinical applications to provide real-time information that hospitals can act on to improve best clinical practices and outcomes.

“[We are] deploying the Alaris Network across our five regional hospitals connecting over 1,000 smart pumps, while managing the system out of our centralized data center,“ said Bill Spooner, senior vice president and chief information officer at Sharp HealthCare (San Diego). “We view this new technology as a key component of our overall clinical information systems strategy.“

NEC Unified Solutions (NEC; Irving, Texas) unveiled a reseller agreement with Vocera Communications (Cupertino, California), a wireless communications company, incorporating the Vocera Communications System with NEC's Univerge WL converged mobility solution for hands-free voice communication.

The Univerge WL system, including wireless LAN infrastructure, handsets and professional services, enables “converged“ mobility within the workplace to deliver real-time communications. In combination with the Vocera system, it enables instant communication via wearable badges.

Featuring wireless LAN, Voice over IP and speech recognition technology, the Vocera Communications Badge — weighing less than two ounces — can be clipped to a shirt pocket or collar or worn on a lanyard. Basic voice commands operate the badges to instantly connect people over Univerge architecture.

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