The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham is piloting wireless networking technology as part of a project which could save the National Health Service up to #450 million a year.
The pilot, which is about to begin phase two, is being carried out by the Wolfsen Computer Laboratory (WCL), part of the University of Birmingham.
The system comprises EHT-400 Epson handheld PCs, running bespoke wireless software developed by WCL.
According to WCL, trials completed late last year suggest the system will help doctors in prescribing drugs to patients. By using pen-based wireless technology, doctors are able to obtain details of a patient's medical history, including information on any drug allergies, much more quickly than using conventional, paper-based systems. The results of these tests are now under review at the Department of Health.
The WCL said there have been growing concerns about the safety and cost of drug therapy. According to government figures, doctors in Britain prescribe #3.3 billion worth of drugs annually. It is estimated that more appropriate prescribing could save the health service #450 million a year.
Margaret Peters, director of WCL, said if the wireless trial was successful, it could be extended to hospitals throughout the UK. "The system contributes to electronic patient records and makes information much more readily available to nurses and doctors. We have already seen similar successful systems in the US," she added.
However, introduction of the system has not been welcomed by all hospital staff. According to Peters: "The computerised system was preferred by Doctors, by a ratio of two to one, but nurses preferred the conventional, paper-based system by the same ratio."
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