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"Star Trek" Communication a Reality for Medics With IBM Wireless Technology


QUEBEC CITY -Healthcare facilities across Canada are saving lives and transforming patient care using advanced mobile communications technology from IBM (NYSE: IBM) reminiscent of “Star Trek.”

The systems provide medical professionals with instant two-way voice communication through lightweight, wearable badges -- similar to devices seen on the popular sci-fi TV show, although at a hospital the voice command is more likely to be “send the MRI images” than “Captain Picard to the bridge.” The devices also can relay text messages and alerts.

In the past six months, IBM signed five services contracts totaling more $500,000 for secure, wireless networks to provide clinicians in surgical wards, emergency rooms and critical care units with hands-free, real-time voice communication technology.
he communicators, developed by Vocera Communications Inc. and supported by an IBM wireless network, can increase staff productivity, save time and improve patient care response times. Physicians and other health care professionals can quickly and easily connect, without stopping what they are doing to look for colleagues or place a phone call or page -- time that could make the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Ontario-based Kingston General Hospital and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital have joined Interior Health in British Columbia and others in hiring IBM to deliver and support the communication systems.

Kingston General Hospital is currently piloting the system on one of its surgical floors. “I don’t think I have ever seen a group of nurses take to a new work tool so enthusiastically,” said Ann Gay, Kingston General’s project coordinator for the trial. “By working with IBM we believe this new technology tool can offer an important advantage, one that lets our staff spend more time caring for patients.”

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital recently completed a trial implementation in its Family and Maternal Care and Coronary/Intensive Care units to equip staffers with the futuristic new badges. Staff evaluations indicated satisfaction in several areas including ease of contacting co-workers, an increased sense of security when in an isolated area, and an increase in time at the bedside.

IBM builds and maintains the wireless network to support the system, which must be secure, reliable, accessible throughout the healthcare campus and compatible and non-intrusive with other hospital wireless devices and technologies. Vocera Communications Inc. makes the communication badges and software.


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