One last quickie before HIMSS. GE has signed an exclusive deal with MP4 Solutions. MP4 will integrate their AirStrip OB wireless remote fetal monitor surveillance product with GE's Centricity Perinatal Solution (the QS system they got from Marquette, who got it from Corometrics, after they acquired QMI in Annapolis). Obstetricians will be able to view near real time fetal monitor waveforms over a variety of wireless connections on smart phones and PDAs.

By interfacing exclusively with GE's Centricity Perinatal system, AirStrip OB provides obstetricians with the ability to retrieve current  and historical patient data, including exams, vital signs, and patient census lists. This software displays the current waveform data coming  from Centricity Perinatal as it would be seen on a monitor in labor & delivery units.Developed using Microsoft's ".NET" framework, AirStrip OB incorporates Smart Client Technology on Smart Phone/PDA devices running Microsoft Window Mobile 2003 and higher. Airstrip OB is designed to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and utilizes some of the strictest internet/wireless security measures available today.

This remote connectivity should be an important differentiator for GE in labor and delivery, at least until a competitor offers a similar feature. Unlike some other "secondary" systems, MP4 has put a 510(k) on their product. On the AireStip web site (which does not support Firefox), I noted the following text prominently displayed:

Airstrip OB is in no way intended to remove care from the bedside; nor is it intended to keep doctors out of the hospital. Rather, this software application is indicated for use by Obstetricians who need to stay connected with their patients, even though the demands of their day necessitate their periodic absence from labor and delivery.

It is also interesting to note that MP4 chose to support all 4 leading cellular carriers rather than use QualComm's provisioning and support system, QConnect. One of the hassles of wire area network (WAN) connectivity is "provisioning." This process entails getting the portable device, subscribing to an appropriate rate plan, activation of the portable device on the carrier's network, and then supporting the network connection.

QualComm's system allows the vendor (in this case, either MP4 or GE) to subscribe, activate and deactivate devices on the carrier network, and to view carrier network status that could impact wireless performance. This approach gives the vendor an unheard of amount of control and responsiveness by way of access directly into the carrier's own provisioning and network software. The drawback - a pretty significant one - is that Sprint is the only carrier that QualComm's signed up.

In this situation, I don't see the provisioning process as critical as support. When the carrier has a wireless network problem, network users experience limited, intermittent, or a complete failure of service. Neither the physician or vendor will know anything beyond their own personal service problems - carriers are typically not very forthcoming about the details of network problems.

On the flip side, most physicians will want to pick their own devices and select the carrier who has the best coverage for their locale.