Cisco Says Wi-Fi Phones Help Cut Hospital Waits

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Nottingham University Hospital has introduced a new IT system incorporating wireless telephony and RFID

Telecoms giant Cisco has revealed details of how installing a new wireless telephony system and other technology has helped cut patient waiting times in one of the UK’s largest teaching hospitals.

Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust (NUH) recently completed the installation of a wired and wireless network which it believes has helped to improve efficiency and cut patient waiting times. Announced this week, the new system could help doctors treating minor injuries to improve their productivity by around seven hours per day which equates to an annual saving of around £77,000 a year.

“The time was right to link together the opportunities presented through the infrastructure investment and the aims and goals of the Emergency Department in its future state,” said Ian Smith, deputy director of ICT Services, NUH.

The new system includes wireless telephony, unified communications and so-called presence technology which Cisco said shows “the real-time availability of staff and enables staff to be contacted wherever they are in the hospital”.

Cisco also introduced a “Unified Application Environment” linking the Emergency Department to Pathology and Radiology which allows hospital staff and patients to be notified when x-rays are ready for collection. The hospital is also trialling Radio frequency identification (RFID) and tracking to make it easier to find equipment.

According to Cisco, the new technology could help cut down time wasted searching for colleagues and equipment. “Before the new technology was introduced, staff spent up to 20 per cent of their time searching for people and equipment. With the new handheld wireless phones, locating and contacting staff is instant,” the company stated.

Neil Crockett, managing director, Public Sector Cisco UK & Ireland said the new system gives staff more time to concentrate on patient care. “The new system at NUH has helped solve the communication problems, meaning that staff now have more time to spend on their patients and immediate access to the vital information required for clinical decision making,” he said.

A study of patient treatment times before the system was introduced revealed that around 75 percent of the time for adult patients was spent waiting. “They waited to be streamed, to be provided with a wheelchair, to receive an Emergency Department Assistant (EDA), to receive medication, to be seen by a specialist doctor, to get a blood test, to be taken to the X-ray department, to be collected from X-ray, to have a doctor receive and then review results, to be admitted to a ward, or to be discharged home,” Cisco stated.

But after the new system was up and running in the Emergency Department, waiting times for adults decreased by around 21 minutes, according to Cisco.

The NUH is the fourth-largest teaching hospital in the country, with over 12,000 staff, and serves a population of around 650,000.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office criticised a hospital trust for a lax approach to security which allowed a laptop containing 33,000 patient records to be stolen.

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