Despite all of the major advances that the medical profession witnesses on an annual basis, it has a reputation for dragging its feet when it comes to adopting revolutionary systems aimed at improving administration and communication.
However, two hospitals in London are braving the technological evolution by adopting RFID (radio frequency identification) tracking and wireless communication networks.
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust will begin using RFID technology to track surgical equipment through the decontamination process to ensure that it has been properly sterilized. The RFID tracking system will be fully automated, which means that it will no longer be necessary for medical staff to handle surgical instruments in order to keep tabs on them. This new process will close the door on the accidental contamination of surgical equipment and will ultimately keep patients safer and speed up recovery. The RFID system will also be used to track all instruments used in a single operation, which virtually negates the risk of surgeons accidentally leaving equipment in patients' bodies, as well as link the electronic systems in various departments for stricter quality control.
St Bartholomew's Hospital, more commonly known as "Barts", is going wireless with a trial of the latest WiFI technology in its Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department. The aim is to provide effective wireless communication and RFID tracking systems to the 75 personnel who work in A&E. It is hoped that WiFi will provide an efficient alternative to outdated communications systems, which are erratic at best, and eliminate the need for staff to wonder the halls to deliver a message to nurses or doctors doing their rounds. As with Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, Barts will use RFID tracking technology to keep track of medical equipment, especially in the wards.
If the trial is successful, the system will be extended to encompass the new facilities that are being built onto Barts and the Royal Hospital that are expected to be completed by 2012. It will also be used to support web-based communication systems, including video streaming and live teleconferencing at Barts.
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