Integrated vice-president of health information and CIO for the London hospitals

Two London, Ont.-based health care centres touted the benefits of a recently built network linking them together at a Cisco Systems-sponsored event in Toronto on Thursday.

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care, London (SJHSC) are using the network to offer diagnostic imaging and radiology services to seven hospital facilities and three family medical centres in London. Ultimately they plan to add another 41 southwestern Ontario hospitals to the network. The network is our most important tool. It allows us to go forward. If it goes down, we are unable to pass information.Diane Beattie>TextThe regional network allows hospitals with radiology equipment, but no radiologists, to have images read by radiologists at another location. The network will also allow some patients at rural hospitals to receive treatment without having to make a trek to better-equipped urban hospitals.

“The network is our most important tool,” said Diane Beattie, integrated vice-president of health information and CIO for the London hospitals. “It allows us to go forward. If it goes down, we are unable to pass information.”

Since installing the network last June, Beattie says the radiology department at SJHC has been able to dispense with using film. By 2006, she hopes all of the regional hospital sites will be able to go without film or paper.

More hospitals should be taking advantage of regional networks, said Dr. Jeff Rideout, vice-president, Internet business solutions group and corporate medical director for Cisco Systems Inc., which provided network gear for the London network, as well as a $250,000 donation to LHSC and SJHSC. But the health sector isn’t investing as much in IT as it could be, he noted.

Brantz Myers, director of enterprise marketing for Cisco Systems Canada Co., gave several examples of how hospitals can boost their productivity through IT investment. One area that could see improvement is administration. By automating administrative systems, he said, hospitals could move from paper to digital, electronic medical records.

Wireless Wi-Fi networks combined with VoIP could also help hospitals by enabling a nurse call system that would allow a patient to contact the nurse closest to them, Myers added.

He said Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) technology could allow for location-based tracking of patients or hospital equipment.

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