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July 23, 2008

Medical Teleconferencing: easy to adopt

Picture of a procedure in an operating theatre.A subset of applications seem to slip smoothly into healthcare causing minimum disruption and delivering maximum benefit. Examples are PACS, Electronic Document Management, the Vocera Communications System and Teleconferencing.

On 4 July 2008 Mr Prakash Punjabi, a leading NHS cardothoracic surgeon working at Imperial College Healthcare, performed a heart valve repair in West London while in conference with more than 40 other surgeons throughout the world using high definition equipment provided by Multisense Communications.

Mr Punjabi says: "This is an excellent illlustration of the use of modern technology to provide advanced surgical training and techniques, which is enabling us to provide best treatments to patients across the NHS."

Perhaps we should base our efforts to increase the adoption and integration of ICT into healthcare on such technologies and build on them.

July 16, 2008

RFID and the Future of Healthcare

Much has been heard and said about the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the healthcare setting; the issue has been discussed and debated since the science found its way into hospitals to be used to track patients, medicines and equipments. In spite of all the negative publicity that’s been accorded to RFID, the technology has done more than its share in augmenting the care that’s offered to patients, especially those hampered by other disabilities and chronic conditions. Here are some issues in the medical field RFID can address:

  • The horror stories we hear about the wrong drugs being administered or incorrect treatment being provided to patients is enough to make us wary of hospitals, no matter how ill we are. But thanks to RFID, error-free patient, treatment and drug identification and verification is now a reality. RFID tags on patients allow electronic storage of information that allows healthcare practitioners to provide the right treatment and administer the right dose of medicine at the right times. Tags also carry the patient’s medical history which can give doctors information on the allergies that the patient has and the previous treatments that the patient has received.

  • Hospitals are now reducing their inventory and logistics expenses and also avoiding losses due to lost and misplaced shipments by using RFID to track their medicine and equipment supplies. Supply chains are also being equipped with the technology to prevent the counterfeiting of drugs.

  • RFID tags are being used to set off alarms and issue warning signals when something untoward happens – like when Alzheimer’s patients wander outside the limits of their home or when wrong dosages of medicines are administered. RFID tags can also act as reminders of important medical procedures or even dosage timings.

  • Some RFID tags are being used as sensors to warn clinicians of changes in temperature and humidity that control the storage of sensitive drugs.

  • Talking RFID tags are now being used to help visually-impaired patients with their medicine dosages – the tag reads out the name, dosage and time the medicine should be taken.

While the proponents of RFID cite these and other advantages as reason enough for a more widespread adoption of the technology in hospitals and other healthcare settings around the world, there are dissidents who raise concerns about the radio frequency waves interfering with other vital and life-saving equipment that are regularly in use in all medical settings.

A new study by RFID consulting and systems integration company BlueBean in conjunction with the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis has found that passive RFID can be safely used in a hospital environment. Hopefully this piece of news will herald a wider use of RFID in all aspects of healthcare, across the world.

This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who writes on the subject of Cruise Nursing. She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

July 03, 2008

In Fine Voice: Vocera improves patient care

vocera.jpg"The patient I was accompanying for a CT scan suddenly became very ill. I was immediately able to call the emergency department for backup from my Badge.”

No, not Bones speaking to Kirk in an episode of Star Trek but a quote from a staff nurse at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT). The Trust employs 22,000 staff members and serves 500,000 people a year. Its Emergency Department treats more than 50,000 patients a year and obviously enjoys a challenge, because in December 2007 it deployed the Vocera Communications System at the same time as relocating to an interim facility.

Kinetic Consulting Ltd. was chosen to carry out a benefits study of the implementation before and after deployment the findings of which are summarised here.

Data were collected before and after implementation using a combination of questionnaires, observational research, activity data analysis, interviews with staff and the collection of anecdotal evidence. Kinetic Consulting found Vocera System benefits included: savings in clinical time; more efficient processes; reduction in delays; increased clinician satisfaction; and improvements in patient care and safety. Ninety-eight percent of staff interviewed said internal communications had improved.

The Vocera Communications System consists of two main components: the Vocera System Software and the Vocera Communications Badge. The System Software runs on a standard Windows server and houses the centralised system intelligence: the call manager, user manager, and connection manager programs, as well as the Nuance speech recognition software and various databases.

The Vocera Communications Badge B2000 is a wearable device weighing less than two ounces. It enables instant two-way voice conversation. Features of the badge include:

  • Voice controls, enabling users to answer incoming calls hands-free

  • Intelligent system software allowing staff to call associates by name, function or group with no need to remember numbers

  • Supporting group communications with conference calling, broadcast messaging and voice mail

  • PBX integration enabling users to make and receive internal calls from their Badges.

Given the usual difficulties of implementing ICT in healthcare to everyone’s satisfaction, it’s a great pleasure to find a system that is unobtrusive, improves patient care and gives such immediate benefit.