Improving Patient Care by Making Real Time Information Available at Bedside

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With the demand for Canadian health-care resources on the rise and the number of health-care professionals decreasing, many care providers are working with increased patient loads and with less help. The result is a decrease in available time for individual patients. To meet this challenge, there is an overwhelming need for tools that deliver efficiency and increase overall productivity while simultaneously improving quality of patient care. One answer is technology that gives health-care professionals access to patient records, lab results, pharmacy data, and allows them to view diagnostic test results and images such as X-rays or CT scans from the bedside.

Recognizing that solutions had to be found to help relieve busy schedules, researchers at Queen’s University Anesthesiology Informatics Lab (QUAIL) at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) began looking for ways to enable care providers to quickly and easily obtain the critical information they need to care for patients. Since 1999, these researchers have been conducting studies and developing a broad range of solutions and services. A key project for the group has been to develop software to enable health-care professionals to electronically record and track health records while they are on the go.

“The health-care community and patients could benefit greatly from easy and timely access to the most accurate and current patient information,” said Dr. David Goldstein, medical director of acute pain management at Kingston General Hospital. “Having a patient’s entire medical history available at your fingertips in a matter of seconds could help health-care providers make a better and faster diagnosis, as well as reduce the chance of drug prescription error. Handheld technology and wireless capability can make this a possibility.”

QUAIL devised a solution to enable health-care professionals to access real-time information using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and a Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) solution from Avaya, a leading global provider of communication networks and services. The integration of QUAIL’s solution with Avaya Wireless and VPN Solutions is designed to enable healthcare professionals in the department of Anesthesiology’s Acute Pain Management Service at KGH to securely access real-time information at patient bedsides. The department is serving as a research and trial environment which could expand to a broader implementation of wireless networking and clinical software at KGH . QUAIL is also investigating the accessibility of secured health data from the hospital to the community. Preliminary results of QUAIL’s research shows great potential to extend portable hand held technology into the community to enable health care providers to collaborate in the management of patient care.

“We hope to expand the research and introduce this service throughout the entire hospital in the near future, and then someday across the region, with the hope of building a central Hospital Information System that all care providers can access to get the most recent information,” said Goldstein.

QUAIL selected the Avaya Wireless LAN solution to provide researchers working in the acute pain management department with an industry-standard, 802.11b wireless data network. An Avaya Wireless access card in a researcher’s PDA or laptop sends and receives signals from any of the 94 wireless LAN access points to be located throughout the hospital, enabling staff to stay connected to the network while on the move similar to a cellular network.

With the wireless solution and a portable device, this information can be stored and updated in real time, and available for authorized staff to look at anywhere, anytime. And because the patient’s entire medical history will be logged in the main system, the chances of diagnosis or drug prescription errors will be reduced. The system also enables the health care provider to access literature from the Internet for clinical decision support.

“Through this research, KGH is leading the way among hospitals to use wireless technology at the point of patient care, said Goldstein. “Our research is exciting because we hope to prove that caregivers with timely access to current medical information at the patient bedside will make clinical decisions more effectively and with fewer errors.”

The Avaya Wireless data network will incorporate the latest state-of-the-art encryption with Avaya Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions, and is designed to meet or exceed the requirements specified in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).