Costs down, quality up: A hospital goes wireless

Costs go up and the quality of patient care goes down in a hospital if doctors, nurses and other staff don't have fast, easy access to information and each other. That was the problem faced several years ago by Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Nicholas Christiano, vice president and CIO of HealthQuest, the hospital's parent organization, said that computers were centralized in nurses stations and in individual offices. That meant that a nurse administering medication, for instance, couldn't immediately verify whether the medication might inadvertently cause a reaction in that particular patient.

Given the constantly on-the-move nature of the work force in the hospital, the answer was clear, Christiano said.

"I told [the hospital president] that the only way we could make it work is to put in a wireless system," he said.

Since September, a new wireless infrastructure has been in place at Vassar Brothers thats combines 802.11, cellular and paging networks. Even more, applications that use the wireless system are providing better care and have led to a stellar return-on-investment that is paying for itself in a relative blink of an eye, Christiano said.

Complicating factors