Costs down, quality up: A hospital goes wireless


The next hardware issue was voice communications. The answer for Vassar Brothers was voice devices from Vocera Communications that operate over the 802.11 network. These devices are small enough to be worn around the neck and they support voice commands so users can make calls without using their hands. The intelligence behind the voice system, such as call and user management, resides on a standard Windows server.

"It's like Star Trek. You push a button, say a name and you're connected," Christiano said. At any given time, there are 600 Vocera devices in operation on the two-building campus.

Another crucial part of the hardware puzzle was COWS -- computers on wheels that nurses and other personnel take around when visiting patients. There are 158 COWS used in the hospital, according to Christiano.

Finally, the medical barcoding application was put in place.

"Every single piece of medication is individually barcoded," Christiano said. "Before giving the medications, the nurse barcodes herself, barcodes the patient and barcodes the medication." The system not only tracks who is giving and receiving what medications, but it also notifies the nurse if there's a problem such as providing the wrong medication or the wrong dose.