Healthcare's Most Wired Magazine has published a story by Eric Yablonka, CIO of The University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System (UCHHS -- gahzuntite!). Eric is at the forefront of the trend of taking enterprise approaches to what have to date been point solutions. This story describes his experience at Comer Children's Hospital with InnerWireless and their "wireless utility." Following are some of the especially good bits.

...wireless runs the risk of fragmented implementation, especially within large multi-department enterprises like hospitals. As was done with multiple wired network platforms years ago, individual departments deployed discrete networks without considering future integration. The result was that enterprise-wide communication was difficult, expensive and, in many cases, all but impossible.Today, wireless is emerging as a must-have information infrastructure, and because it supports mission- and life-critical applications, we can't afford to repeat the wired network experience. Still, there's a squeeze play of sorts as administrators and caregivers across all departments are calling for "wireless solutions." Meanwhile, many vendors are happy to sell single-point solutions to individual departments to meet a specific need, but fail to create leverage for the rest of the hospital.

To avoid an inefficient rollout of wireless technologies, hospitals should think of wireless not as a specific technology or application, but rather as an entire ecosystem that profoundly impacts patient safety, patient experience and hospital workflow. Coordinating and communicating with this ecosystem's many constituents to map services, applications and devices is critical to a successful enterprise wireless strategy. This means defining what wireless means for today's hospital and what it will mean in the future. While each department will define it in different terms--telemetry, Wi-Fi, cellular, RFID, paging or CPOE--their focus will all be application-centric. UCHHS, however, takes a big-picture view, focusing on how the hospital will leverage wireless as an enterprise application rather than numerous discrete applications on a departmental basis.

The rapid convergence of medical equipment and IT continues, particularly around integration, networking and data sharing. To leverage the opportunities presented by wireless medical equipment manufacturers, hospitals must have an infrastructure robust enough to support the new equipment and applications. The alternative is to continue to build, maintain and update point solutions for each application. UCHHS views wireless as more than Wi-Fi; we already were planning paging and two-way radio networks. We knew we wanted to distribute cellular within the building, and we quickly understood that access points did not equal a wireless network utility. Installing network access points did not meet the requirement to unite these technologies on a single distribution system.

Now take this line of thinking and extend it to RFID, VoIP, wireless medical devices, alarm notification, and the point-of-care -- it makes the mind spin, doesn't it?

Great article Eric.