New Sault Ste Marie hospital gets outfitted by Cisco

Sault Area Hospital opened this week in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., with technology, supplied by Cisco Systems Inc., such as Wi-Fi, potential patient bedside terminals, video-conferencing and digital heating and lighting capabilities.

“I think it’s great. The technology will make our lives better,” said Jeff Weeks, the chief information officer at Sault Area Hospital. “The technology in the hospital is integral.”

Using hospital equipment on a Wi-Fi infrastructure, staff can treat patients in the hallways, send X-rays electronically for diagnosis and access patient records throughout the building using bedside terminals, according to Brantz Myers, the director of health care business development for Cisco Canada.

The bedside terminals are also for patient entertainment and for videoconferencing, Weeks said.

“(Videoconferencing) is one of the more successful medical employments,” said Michael Martineau, the vice-president of sales and marketing at Toronto-based B Sharp Technologies Inc. “From a staff perspective, it is useful for education, when it comes to doctors bringing in specialists on camera.”

Videoconferencing can be used by doctors to reach other doctors for instruction on how to treat a patient with a serious illness, if they are unable to fly to the patient. Patients can also contact loved ones if they are unable to visit, Brantz said.

Videoconferencing is not being used at Sault Area Hospital at the moment but it will be eventually, Weeks said.

Interoperability with other equipment is not an issue and neither is privacy because videoconferencing runs on a private network, according to Martineau.

Radio-frequency identification-based tracking technology will also be used in the hospital to track patients and equipment. Medical staff place tags on patients and track their whereabouts in the building using radio waves. This can be especially useful for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, who might wander outside the building. The tracking system is being piloted in the maternity ward to monitor equipment.

Cisco also implemented a nurse call system, using wireless phones. When a patient pushes the nurse call system, the nurse working with the patient will receive a message directly to his or her phone, Weeks said.

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