Making the medical grade

The Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services has implemented a Cisco-based wireless network service to help doctors provide faster response to patient needs.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  May 31, 2005

|~|needle_m.jpg|~||~|The Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS) has implemented a Cisco-based wireless network service to help doctors provide faster response to patient needs. The network was implemented at the Dubai, Rashid and Al Wasl hospitals between January and April this year, with 14,500 inpatients so far served by the technology. The wireless network allows doctors to more quickly use the physician order entry (POE) system, which they use to submit requests for radiology, x-ray and lab services. The system also allows doctors to wirelessly access patient records as they do their rounds. “The network saves money as it cuts the time and manpower needed to relay requests from the patient’s bedside to specialist units such as x-ray,” says Sina AbdulAziz Khoory, IT director at the DOHMS. “As well as streamlining processes, there is no manual input of data after the doctor has made the request, so there is less chance of mistakes. The faster and more accurate response has also improved our clinical performance,” he adds. The wireless network was built on top of the hospitals’ existing Cisco-based networks and involved the installation of 160 wireless access points, 21 Catalyst switches and used CiscoWorks Wireless LAN Solution Engine and Cisco Secure Access Control Servers 3.2 to take care of management and security. The installation was carried out by Emirates Computers and uses Dell notebooks throughout The hospitals have deployed carts to allow doctors to wheel the notebooks around wards by doctors. The hospital explored the use of more mobile devices such as tablet PCs and PDAs but ruled them out due to security considerations and after consultation with staff. “We showed tablet PCs, PDAs and the notebook on a cart to doctors and they selected the cart. We felt it was important to leave the selection of interface to the physicians, as they would take ownership of it, not the IT department,” says Khoory. The hospital says the carts prove more convenient and practical for doctors as they provide space for papers and tools and an extra battery. The cart is also hard wearing, coming with a shield for the screen and a protective flap for the keyboard. Furthermore, the cart is built to be easy to use by doctors when both standing and sitting, while leaving their hands free to tend to their patients. The hospital says the physicians have quickly adapted to the new system, as it involves familiar equipment at the interface end, with the innovation housed on the back-end. In terms of security, the hospital uses authentication technology to ensure that only authorised staff can access notebooks, with no other external party able to join the network. The hospital also uses encryption to protect data and took its lead from pioneering healthcare institutions in the USA during the implementation. For example, DOHMS sought advice on which devices to allow access to the network and on the basis of this concluded that PDAs did not support the required level of security to be safely accommodated on the network. The hospital is currently planning the second stage of the implementation, which will extend the system to other areas of the hospital, such as outpatient wards and help nurses deal with patients as they arrive. “We planned and installed our network in 1999 and took into consideration data and bandwidth requirement for seven years and we have not had to upgrade since then,” says Khoory. “We have a strong and long-standing partnership with Cisco and planned our original network very well, but we are always monitoring bandwidth and storage requirements and we will look to expand as needs develop,” he adds. The deal comes under Cisco’s Medical Grade Network banner, which is a marketing term used to denote the services and solutions the vendor provides for the healthcare vertical. Cisco has also recently announced that it has deployed its Medical Grade Network solutions at Al Salam International Hospital in Kuwait.||**||

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