Wakefield & Pontefract NHS Trust is to be the first large-scale UK user of Microsoft's Pocket PC mobile technology. Around 400 mobile workers are set to use the new operating system to access patient records and work schedules.
Used on handheld computers from Hewlett-Packard, the Wakefield system will move 200 existing users from the Microsoft Windows CE system to the more functional Pocket PC solution. These will be joined by a further 200 staff who are currently reliant on paper-based systems when providing care in the community.
A Trust spokesman said the system would allow medical staff to access patient information while on the move without having to carry copious notes, or refer to desktop PCs.
"We needed to take advantage of the revolution in mobile devices in order to truly mobilise our staff, because they need the same information as staff with fixed PCs," he said "Once the back-end systems were in place, putting all our network services onto a Pocket PC was easy."
Each Pocket PC holds 2,000 to 3,000 patient records, which are updated each time the device is synchronised with back-office systems.
The financing of the project is part of a five-year private finance initiative deal with Microsoft integrator in4tek, which has supported Wakefield's mobile strategy for the last two years.
Initially, Wakefield workers will rely on synchronisation of data through nearby fixed PCs, explained in4tek managing director Tom Nawojcyk. However, when General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) mobile wireless transmission technology takes off, Wakefield's staff will be able to access records and calendars in real-time without having to be anywhere near an office PC.
Mobile operators are currently building their GPRS networks, while BT Cellnet launched the first commercial business service in June. Nawojcyk said he was in discussions with BT about adding GPRS capability to Wakefield's devices.
At Wakefield, the Pocket PC operating system is working in tandem with in4tek's Venice software, which is used in the health sector to manage patient records. Wakefield's mobile system is linked to a back-end database consisting of Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 and Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0. It works with the Trust's desktop system running Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and Windows 98.