Technology is built into new Essex hospital

Broomfield Hospital in Essex is installing a range of technologies to improve patient care as it expands into a new five-storey wing.

Broomfield Hospital in Essex is installing a range of technologies to improve patient care as it expands into a new five-storey wing.

Director of IT at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust Mike Casey told the BCS Health Informatics conference that the hospital would extend its wireless network, from Aerohive Networks, to give doctors and nurses instant access to information they would otherwise have to spend time looking for.

Patients' medical records can be scanned into the system when they are admitted to the hospital, allowing doctors to check their medical history at a glance.

Expensive equipment such as ultrasound machines can be RFID tagged and tracked as they move around the building. "It means a doctor can use a tablet PC to check the system and find out where in the building a machine is, instead of ringing someone or asking people to see if it is on its way," he said.

The RFID tracking system can help with infection control because it allows clinicians to see where a machine has been in the recent past, Casey added. "The quicker they find out which machine has been on an infected ward, the quicker they can contain the infection," he said.

The tags can also be attached to beds, so doctors know if a patient is on route to the right department.

The wireless system will go live in August, and the wing will be open to patients two months later. "The goal for the new wing is to lay the groundwork to be able to put all the other layers of technology on top of it in the future."

The hospital is also implementing a Nortel voice-over-IP system and a "did not arrive" (DNA) system. It sends an SMS text to patients the day before their hospital appointment, saving money by preventing missed appointments.

Casey says he wants to keep improving IT at the hospital. He has plans to set up video streaming of live operations to the nearby Anglia Ruskin University to allow medical students to see surgeons at work. There are also plans to use Apple iPads for doctors' day-to-day work.

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