While such apps are possible, whether they're actually deployed in the specialist center upon opening day remains to be seen. Dr Fok says that while Kiang Wu intends to install the latest high-tech medical applications to achieve its goals of efficiency and better operations, the hospital is naturally limited by its budget. Dr Fok declined to name a figure as to the hospital's IT budget, or how much the initial Cisco platform will cost.
However, applications that are officially in the works include bar code point of care (BPOC), nurse call system, patient panel and telemedicine.
The BPOC makes use of bar codes on the patient's wristband, which can be scanned by a barcode scanner on a PDA linked to the wireless network. The PDA then retrieves patient data over the air so the nurse can determine, for example, what medication the patient has been prescribed and the proper dosage to administer.
The nurse call system performs the same function as standard standalone nurse call systems in place today - which is to say, the patient presses a button to page a nurse - but is integrated into the IP network. This enables nurses to be reached wherever they happen to be via wireless IP phones, rather than simply buzzing the nurses' station.
Patient panels at each bedside are also integrated into the system to perform similar functions as nurse call and BPOC as a redundant form of input and communication. They also serve to keep the patients themselves informed of the latest developments, says Dr Fok. "We can use the panels to transmit imaging and patients records, so that when the patient has a scan done, for example, they will get the results once they return to the ward. And for things like blood tests, they can get the results immediately once it's done."
That same sort of fast feedback, he adds, "will also allow nurses to spend more time with patients rather than chasing up records or lab results, and checking and double checking on these."
Dr Fok emphasizes the ability of a centralized, easily accessible data system to guard against staff errors, citing numerous instances in Hong Kong of patients accidentally being given the wrong dosage or the wrong medicine. He acknowledges that the apps are only as reliable as the people using them, so it's important to make sure staff are properly trained on the new apps. How easy a transition it will be for hospital staff to break old habits and use the new technology "depends how user friendly [Cisco and Macroview] make the system," he adds.