'Most Wireless' hospitals improve data collection and access, reduce patient movement

A truer statement may never have been written about health IT: "electronically delivered patient information is only as useful as its capacity to be used."

That line is from a Hospitals & Health Networks story about its "Most Wireless" organizations for 2010. Many of the 25 on the list this year have the capacity to access, update and generally use information "in every nook, cranny, stairwell, lounge and patient room" of the hospital or campus.

"Wireless is necessary to have full point-of-care delivery of information, whether it be at a bedside, in a clinic, moving into an OR setting," Chester Maze, CIO of Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, tells the magazine. "Information can be tracked and recorded readily, as opposed to entering information on a sheet of paper, or finding a computer and entering the information."

According to Maze, wireless devices are unlike other forms of health IT because they adapt to clinicians instead of clinicians adapting to the technology, giving Christ Hospital a leg up in the quest for "meaningful use" of an EMR. "We want to be able to match the physician workflow as much as possible in a manner that's minimally disruptive," Maze explains.

Wireless technology in the form of computers-on-wheels and mobile wristband scanners have allowed Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital and Clinics in Prairie du Sac, Wis., to cut down on patient transfers--a frequent point of medical errors. Instead of moving patients to diagnostic or monitoring areas, the diagnostic and monitoring devices come to them. "It's really difficult if you've got something hardwired-you can only go so far with it," says IT director Marybeth Bay. "So having the wireless technology, the wireless scanners, it just makes it a lot easier for the clinic staff and the patients."

University Health System in San Antonio is looking to automate data collection with wireless telemetry monitors that transfer readings into an EMR at regular intervals. "Think about the productivity," CIO William Phillips tells HHN. "Some of these vitals are done every 15 minutes; now they're going to be able to push a button and transmit them wirelessly."

For further details about the "Most Wireless":
- read this Hospitals & Health Networks story