The self-aware hospital

Automated hospital asset tracking isn't a new idea. WiFi isn't a new idea. And of course, hospitals have always kept track of patients as they move through the system. But when you hit the HIMSS show floor, expect to see new solutions that integrate many of these elements into a large hospital ecosystem--one that starts at the ED door and extends across the hospital's assets, people, medication systems and more. These days, many solutions are being built around WiFi, linking asset tracking, patient tracking, pharmacy dispensing and more. I see the emergence, ultimately, of a "hospital operating system," one that goes well beyond IT integration efforts to an almost self-aware level.

It's difficult to characterize these technologies in a single sentence, as they range from systems that focus largely on RFID tagging to network analysis to others largely focused on keeping tabs on patients. For example, there's Emergin's nurse call and patient monitoring systems, which rest on a larger hospital IT integration platform. There are several vendors, such as Ekahau, Trapeze Networks, Versus and Aero Scout, that use WiFi to track not only traditional hard assets, but also equipment and/or people within the organization. But the bottom line, as always, is the patients, and simply tracking them is only part of the way. I'm going to ask vendors like these for some hard data as to how all of this might improve the patient care process, and I encourage you to do the same.

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