Ottawa Hospital goes mobile with IBM middleware

Ottawa Hospital  has been one of the boldest health care institutions in North America in equipping clinical staff with Apple Inc.’s iPads, starting distribution to doctors and nurses almost three years ago.

Recently it enhanced their use by linking the tablets and iPhones to a mobile patient information system. Not only does it link the devices to the hosptial’s electronic health records system, it also allows users to collaborate through social media.

Dr. Glen Geiger, medical director for clinical information systems at the hospital, said the server-controlled iPads bring hospital staff onto the same wavelength, a big plus for chronically rushed medical professionals with frequently overlapping responsibilities.

“Historically, they tried to communicate with paging, sticky notes, paper, waves for attention,” said Dr. Geiger. “What we’re going to be building out is a model we call ‘circle of care.’ What this does is allow people to actually see all the different care providers involved in the care back to the specific patient at that time.”

The app uses middleware from IBM, including new versions of Business Process Manager, Operational Design Management and IBM WebSphere Application Server, as well as new WebSphere Cast Iron API services. IBM announced these new products this week in Las Vegas at its annual Impact conference.

Ottawa Hospital CIO Dale Potter said the middleware allows for a more collaborative environment for everyone involved in caring for a patient, which can include social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, and a host of specialist doctors.

Potter said mobile is fundamentally changing the way medical care is provided, offering physicians in particular a better work-life balance. For example, certain doctors in the Ottawa area regularly provide consultations to other care providers located anywhere from the U.S. border to the fringes of the North Pole. They had coined a term for being on-call, he said: “house arrest.”

In other words, they were required to be able to access a health record within 10 minutes of receiving a page.

But for these doctors, he added, pagers can now happily co-exist with iPads. Out for dinner? Not a problem anymore, Potter said.

“They can go to a private area, consult, deliver life-saving care to the patient and guide the other physician on the other end of the phone.”

Overall, mobility is changing the face of IT at the Ottawa Hospital, Potter said. The requests for iPads are flooding in, while the demand for desktops is in steep decline.

“The world is changing,” said Potter. “My PC requests have become cut by 50 per cent.

“We’vc ripped out more PCs from different environments,” he added. “For instance, all the operating rooms would have three or four PCs to access certain information or diagnostic imaging while they’re doing surgical procedures.”

These functions can now be handled easily by tablets, he said, so the desktops have gotten their plugs pulled.

Aside from the Ottawa Hospital, IBM’s process management tools are also being used by for-profit enterprises in Canada, including TD Bank, which has also bought IBM’s Social Business platform.

Phil Gilbert, vice-president of business process management at IBM, says the world is starting to see the “beginning of a new business architecture” based on collaboration and real-time intelligence.

“I think it’s an architecture that will define, over the next 30 or 40 years, the next big battle in software.”

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