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MOBILE AND WIRELESS COMPUTING

Healthcare workers are increasingly become mobile, with a number of them now going into the community to do some work. However there is the danger of them losing the services that were available to them through the use of their desktop Personal Computers (PCs).

Mobile computing devices such as laptops, notebooks, tablets and Personal Device Assistants (PDAs) provide users with some of that were previously only available on the desktop PC. Early mobile devices were bulky and clumsy, and had low computing and battery power and thus had low appeal amongst computer users. However of late, the decrease in size and increase in the computing and battery power of mobile devices has led to an increase in their use to provide mobile computing solutions.


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Wireless technology provides mobile computers users with a means of accessing and transmitting data to and from a central collection point. Wireless technology standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow healthcare organisations to set up wireless networks so that mobile computing devices can not only connect to these networks for data transmission but also to one another. These organisations are now beginning to apply mobile computing solutions to various aspects of healthcare services such as point-of-care collection of information, care assessments, orders and electronic prescriptions.

One of the advantages organisations can enjoy from deployment of mobile computing solutions include the "anytime and anywhere" access. This is a phrase that has been coined by the champions of wireless technology. This basically describes the situation that allows users to connect to wireless networks to access data from almost any point and at anytime of the day they choose to. This not only addresses the issue of immediacy in accessing data but also increases the flexibility in the manner in which a healthcare professional can work.

However before going out to acquire mobile computing solutions, there are some factors healthcare organisations should consider:

  • Consider the need for real-time access

    While an ideal situation would be to have an "always connected" mode, in terms of being connected to the network, it can be expensive. Some healthcare workers out in the community need to access and send back data almost on a constant basis, some only need to so intermittently, while others only need to access the upload and download data to and from the central database at the end of the working day.

    It is important to suit mobile applications to the needs of the health worker as this can increase the battery life of mobile devices, control the amount of traffic that connects to the central database and within the network inside, and most importantly control costs.

  • Always consider security

    At all stages of acquiring mobile computing solutions, security of the wireless network and the data being transmitted through the network as well as that available on the mobile computing devices should always be a priority from the planning stages right through to the deployment and maintenance.

    All users connecting to the central databases should be successfully and correctly authenticated, communications between the mobile devices and the database should be encrypted and the data located on the devices themselves should either be password protected and/or encrypted.

    Increasing sophistication of mobile computing means that they are becoming susceptible to some of the kind of viruses and malicious code attacks that are common to desktop PCs. It is important to take this into consideration and seek adequate anti-virus and code attack solutions.

    It is also import to ensure that anyone logging onto to the wireless network and not just connecting to the central database is probably authenticate as anyone with a device with a wireless port can gain access to unsecured data being transmitted through the network.



  • Think big, start small

    It is better to start off with small pilot projects to examine the effects mobile computers would have on the productivity and efficiency of the healthcare workers for whom the solution is targeted at. The projects can later be scaled up, always leaving room for an increase in the number of users.

See Also:

 

 

QUICK LINKS
International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society


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