Wireless Meets Medical

It’s already happening: quickly passing are the days when the nurse recorded your vital signs on a clipboard, placing it in the door-file for the doctor to inspect as he or she came in the room.  And don’t be surprised to see an MD or Nurse Practitioner arrrive with a PDA device or netbook PC, reviewing the same vital signs information that was just transmitted.  These days, its all about wireless data transfer – in both Primary Care settings and Acute Care facilities.  Weight scales, thermometers, cardiovascular monitoring devices of all sorts and more- medical wireless data transmission is emerging, its here to stay, and its an unstoppable trend.

Speaking of Acute Care hospitals, you may be surprised to know that about 2 years ago a very large, widespread hospital organization was prominently recognized in the national media for quickly implementing and doing trial runs of wireless medical technology.  Was it the Mayo Clinic…John Hopkins…Cedar Sinai…?  No, actually it was the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital system.  Those other esteemed institutions, and hundreds of other hospitals are making steady process in implementing various wireless solutions (commonly referred to as “EMR”, or electronic medical records, and at the consumer level and in the media the term “EHR”, electronic health records, is also used).  Primary Care physician offices and group practices are also adopting various forms of the technology, but at a slower pace mainly due to cost of implementation.

Manufacturers selling directly to physician offices (and through distributor channels) have addressed the cost barrier in various ways, perhaps most effectively by providing EMR technology “SaaS”  i.e. software-as-a-service, instead of expensive stand-alone hardware and software that must be purchased.  SaaS, or web-based internet programs in other words, do away with the need to purchase lots of hardware and software that has to be installed on office computers, and basically makes that same functionality available via the internet on servers, thereby reducing costs.  The family practice physician can then subscribe to the service, select features and functionality specific to their specialty and practice, use it on a trial basis to see if its a good fit for their office, with the web-based application being scaleable to their level of usage.  

 Next we’ll look at some reasons this innovation is a good thing, and address a question that always accompanies any discussion about wireless medical technology – privacy of patient information.

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