In Healthcare Communications, One Device Does Not Fit All � Yet | Page 3

2. Where are the applications? Healthcare-specific applications do exist for the BlackBerry, and Palm and Windows mobile smartphones, but they are far from perfect, often without true device/application integration. And mobile healthcare professionals require devices with deeper and tighter integration between hardware and applications.

While software providers like Globestar have smartphone-ready, hospital-friendly applications for alarm notification, escalation and dispatch, they lack tight device integration, making them imperfect. Again, the purpose-built applications, like Ascom phones or Vocera badges, currently have the leg up on the competition, though this may not last for long.

3. It's the Network. If you don't have a reliable network that can handle mobile communications, you're going to run into problems. And in a world where medical professionals traverse from office to hospital to home, that network may really be a network of networks. While it may be okay to drop a call mid-conversation when chatting out on the street with your buddy, it's not okay when a nurse misses a critical alarm from a fetal monitor.

In spite of significant efforts, the medical grade network (even purely at the building level) is not a reality yet. And while fixed mobile convergence (FMC) vendors like DiVitas (or the big PBX players like Nortel, Siemens and Avaya) have solutions that manage the transitions between networks for multi-mode devices (e.g., in-building wireless'3G), they can't really fix the network of networks problem. And even if they could, the purpose-built, multi-mode device with true application integration has yet to appear.

4. What about workflow? Spend time in an Emergency Department or Operating Room suite recently? This incredibly fast moving world doesn't lend itself well to ad-hoc asynchronous communications like email or text messaging that is de rigueur with normal consumer smartphones, especially given all the possible sending and receiving points.

Reliable communication starts first with designed workflow and an understanding of the journey information must take from inception to delivery, to acknowledgement and response. Once you have a workable flow, then software applications and devices can be considered.

The Future: Multiple Devices & Form Factors
The multidisciplinary task force I saw at work is a good sign. Even though they were involved in a messy process, at least someone wasn't making dictatorial decisions regarding communications devices that might impact 7,000 employees (I've seen that happen many times).

And in spite of the operational hurdles, I see a future made up of multiple devices with multiple form factors. Of course, most organizations already live in a world of many different devices, but the key emerging difference is that these devices will operate using standardized protocols over better designed and implemented networks.

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