Mobility Is Child's Play at Children's Hospital
By Samuel Greengard
Remarkable advances in medical technology have grabbed more than a few headlines in recent years. But behind the stories of new and life-altering procedures is the business of operating hospitals efficiently—including delivering innovative and leading-edge technology solutions for patients and visitors.
Miami Children's Hospital, one of the nation's top-ranked pediatric institutions, is at the forefront of this trend. Over the last decade, the facility has implemented electronic medical records, digital signature pads, electronic order entry and an array of other electronic tools. "We have attempted to reinvent ourselves through digital technology," explains Edward Martinez, senior vice president and CIO.
The South Florida facility is now taking the concept to a new level. "Patient engagement is a critical piece of the puzzle," he says. A few years ago, "We realized that things are moving from traditional computers to a mobile platform." After Martinez visited a museum on a trip to New York City, he realized that the same type of engagement, including navigation capabilities, was possible in a hospital setting.
Working with Cisco Systems—and using the firm's WiFi technology, mobility services engine and APIs—Miami Children's Hospital built a state-of-the-art wireless infrastructure that could support next-generation tools. The environment provides patients and guests with indoor location information and services through a mobile app available for Apple iPhones and iPads. It is reportedly the first hospital to use an iOS smartphone app for WiFi triangulation.
Among other things, the Fit4KidsCare app offers a Meridian indoor way-finding system (similar to indoor GPS) with a child-friendly interface and step-by-step directions based on the specific location of a visitor inside the medical center. It also delivers mobile meal ordering and room service, as well as gift shop ordering for patients and families, and off-site card and gift ordering for family and friends who download the app but aren't physically present at the hospital. Patients can use their own iPhones or iPads or borrow devices from the hospital.
Building the wireless infrastructure was a formidable challenge. "It was complicated because it required triangulation of wireless signals, but not all the facilities and the equipment we originally had in place could provide pinpoint accuracy," Martinez recalls. Next-generation Cisco wireless access points and other network gear helped address that issue, but the hospital also had to develop new digital features and content and build in adequate controls and security.
Martinez and the hospital's IT team are continuing to build on the wireless features. For example, they are now adding instructional videos that cover everything from procedures to medication regimens. He also hopes to add a barcode reader that would allow parents or caretakers to scan medication and obtain pertinent information.
Further out, the hospital plans to offer discharge information through the app and to introduce games that help children and their families better adhere to medication schedules, fitness regimens and more. Tele-health, which would allow parents to interact with physicians through the app, is also on the hospital's radar.
"Health care is changing," Martinez points out. "With a robust infrastructure in place, we are able to deliver services at the leading edge of today's technology."