A few weeks ago I went through an interesting—I can say that now—series of health-related events. Bottom line, I had three blocked coronary arteries and needed bypass surgery. Now in the mending and self-reflecting stage, I am realizing that wireless technology played a very significant part in my getting through this latest adventure/ordeal—depending on how long it has been since I had my last pain pill.Diagnosing the problem
The use of wireless technology became evident right after my diagnostic angiogram was completed. I noticed that all of the doctors and technicians were carrying PDAs or tablet notebooks. One reason why became apparent after I was wheeled back into my recovery room. It seemed like an ad-hoc netmeeting was taking place where my cardiologist and several others were all viewing the results of my angiogram and deciding on what the next step should be. I asked a nurse about that and found out that my guess was correct. The nurse further explained that the wireless PDAs and tablet notebooks allow many more doctors to participate in the diagnosis since there is no need for a formally scheduled meeting at a specified location to view the results. Sounds good to me, I firmly believe that having more participants offering advice will result in exponentially better answers.Wireless EKG telemetry
Having a heart condition makes one acutely aware of EKGs and the various sensors that need to be attached to one’s skin. The diligence used to attach these sensors discloses the importance of EKGs and being able to monitor the heart’s condition constantly. Here again wireless technology is helping to make EKG monitoring more efficient as well as continuous. The whole time I was in the hospital my heart was remotely monitored by a telemetry package. It consisted of three components: real-time patient data application and associated hardware, networking infrastructure operating in the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS), and a remote EKG sensor device. The remote EKG sensor consists of five or six sensor leads attached to a small 1”x3”x 6” plastic box. This device allowed the cardiac care personnel to keep track of me and the condition of my heart no matter where I was on the floor. It does not take much thought to see how useful and important having this capability is to the people responsible for my care.
The use of wireless EKG systems is not just for critical in-patient care. Three times a week I have cardiac rehab and my heart is again constantly monitored using a remote EKG telemetry unit while I am doing my exercises and conditioning. It allows the physical therapist to alter my conditioning program in real-time so I gain the most benefit without over-taxing my heart. It also alerts the therapists to any abnormal situations. To gain an appreciation of this, visualize trying to do all of this while attached to the normal EKG machine that most clinics use.Communication devices for hospital staff
I noticed two unique communication devices being used in the hospital. The communication devices were wireless VoIP phone sets and wireless communication badges. Doctors and special technicians were using the wireless VoIP phones and as far as I could see the phone sets did not have any special features making them unique for the hospital environment.
The communication badges are unique devices and appear to be almost indispensable to the remaining hospital staff members. The badge is a voice-controlled communications device that operates on an 802.11b/g WLAN, allowing the user to talk directly to other staff members or receive telephone calls through the internal PBX. The nursing staff mentioned two benefits that are not readily apparent, but make a great deal of sense. One benefit is instant communications between critical care staff, hands-free if necessary and totally eliminating the “page and wait” requirement of normal phone systems. The other benefit is reduced system-wide paging. I did not even think about this, but after paying attention, it is a very much appreciated feature, especially when trying to sleep.Final thoughts
I doubt seriously that I was able to get a glimpse at all of the applications using wireless technology, but the ones that I did recognize were very impressive and I for one was very happy for their existence. I would appreciate learning about any other applications using wireless technology in the medical field.
Michael Kassner is currently a systems manager for an international company. Together with his son, he runs MKassner Net, a small IT publication consultancy.