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Hospital WiFi Network Brings Benefits to Genesis Guests, Health-Care Providers PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Health
Tuesday, 25 April 2006 18:00
The wireless-Internet, or WiFi, network is available at no cost at Genesis’ Davenport, DeWitt, and Silvis campuses. The wireless network allows hospital visitors to get work done at the hospital so they can spend more time with their loved ones, rather than having to go home or to the office. Patients can also use the WiFi network to fight boredom by connecting to the Internet using laptops, PSPs (PlayStation Portables), and other wireless devices equipped with a WiFi card.

“In the past we have had people in the hospitals ask if they could use a computer for a few minutes to catch up on work they are missing by being at the hospital,” said Dave Leslie, supervisor of network and security, in a Genesis press release. “With their own computers, that is a service that will be available throughout our hospitals.”

Rob Frieden, vice president of information systems, said he believes the WiFi network is important to customer satisfaction. But Genesis has kept the public wireless capabilities fairly quiet. So far the network has been publicized in press releases in March and in discussions on Genesis’ local radio show on WOC.

There aren’t even any signs at the campuses to let patients and visitors know it’s accessible. Craig Cooper, Genesis media coordinator, said signs haven’t been posted yet because it’s the end of a budget year and the money isn’t available to do it. Cooper said that signs should probably be posted soon. Until then, the only way patients and visitors will know about the wireless network is by asking or using their computer.

While WiFi might be exciting for laptop owners who have a wireless-access card, Ethernet plug-ins were already available in patient and visiting rooms throughout the campuses. For laptop computers, Ethernet plugs-ins are more common than wireless capabilities.

The wireless network was installed at the four campuses in two stages. The first stage, which began in January 2005, allowed network access to Genesis staff members, according to Frieden. The second stage, allowing public access, began in February.

The main uses for the WiFi network by the hospital staff are keeping patient information in laptops, which caretakers use by the patients’ bedside, and Voceras (intercoms used over the WiFi network). Frieden said that by collecting patient information with computers, legibility concerns – such as nurses not being able to understand handwritten notes from doctors or other nurses, which accounted for a majority of mistakes – are no longer a factor. Also, the information is collected more quickly, and it is easier when exchanging shifts to make sure the proper information is available, so fewer mistakes are made.

“Because of how information is captured, when there are changes in nurses it becomes less strenuous for oncoming nurses to find the information they need,” Frieden said. “Instead of thumbing through stacks of paperwork, all the information is found right on the computer.”

Rose Coats, Genesis unit assistant, said that the new technology has made her job easier and allows her to get more work done in less time. “If a patient wants some meds [medicine], you can look up the meds right then and there,” she said.

Trinity Regional Health System is working on its own wireless network. Vice President Jeff Stolze said in an e-mail: “This service will be available as soon as the necessary infrastructure requirements have been completed within the next several months.”

Genesis Health System is one of the nation’s “100 most wired hospitals and health systems,” according to Hospitals & Health Networks magazine (http://www.hhnmag.com) in 2005.

The second phase of the wireless network cost $150,000 to outfit all four campuses. Leslie said that an average of between 10 to 20 public connections are made on the WiFi network per campus each day.

According to Hospitals & Health Networks’ Most Wired Survey, only 21 percent of hospitals in the Midwest have some form of wired or wireless network, whether it’s for staff purposes only or both staff and guests. Luis Taveras, industry analyst for the Health & Life Sciences practice of Accenture, Chicago, said in a Health & Health Networks article that guests still don’t expect to find expect to find wireless networks in hospitals and usually don’t arrive prepared to use them.

“This is not a trend yet,” said Taveras. “Right now, the marketing edge only affects repeat patients.”
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