Mayo Clinic Sees Efficiency as Major Mobility Benefit
May 7, 2008
There is nothing new with the use of mobile solutions in the healthcare industry. Hospitals have used it to communicate and submit information for quite some time. However, as mobile technologies evolve, hospitals and healthcare providers are seeing a bigger return on their mobile investments.
News@Cisco sat down with Randy Regimbal, Director of Network Services at Mayo Clinic to understand how his company is maximizing the benefits of using mobile technologies. During the discussion, he also lent some insight into future applications of mobility within the healthcare industry.
How is Mayo Clinic using mobile technologies today? How do you see it changing the healthcare industry in the next couple of years?
Randy Regimbal: We currently offer free wireless access to patients and visitors, and see more than 600 unique visitors a day in our three major campuses in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. While this specific use of the wireless network does not translate into gained efficiencies, it certainly translates to a better experience. In fact, the feedback we received from people - not just employees, but patients and visitors - is they expect wireless access as a service. We have very busy people in the hospitals, and if they have 30 minutes of free time, they often want to email and communicate with people. They appreciate online, wireless and seamless access. That is a hidden benefit that translates to happier workers and patients.
In the next few years, the most critical way mobility will be used in healthcare is to improve efficiency. It no longer makes sense for a worker to use fixed devices 50 times a day when we see an increasingly mobile workforce. Sure we see Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, but we also see a wave of new devices, especially medical-specific mobile devices. The priority is to drive additional efficiencies in how we work and operate.
What does a wireless future mean for Mayo Clinic? What are some of your plans to further integrate mobile technologies in the future?
Randy Regimbal: Looking down the road, we see active RFID technologies playing a part. With a lot of equipment in a medical environment, we're exploring options on how to track them. Something else we're investigating is the concept of presence. It would be great to know if a certain doctor is on campus, so if they are, then we can get in touch with them for something important.
What is your mobility vision?
Randy Regimbal: We're upgrading our first generation network, and there have been many technology advancements since we deployed it. The way people are using technology has changed, and this means we need to change how we use communications tools. We made the unified wired and wireless network friendlier for voice communications, or in some cases we increased the signal strength of our wireless access points. And with RFID, we're looking to get a level of accuracy and precision of location. Our IT leaders' vision is to do everything they do in a wired world, but wirelessly. Granted this nirvana is neither feasible nor recommended today, but it will happen over many years. Let's back up 10 years; did you think we would be where we are today? The pace of wireless possibilities is faster now than I would have expected it to be.
My parting thought is the belief that wireless has shifted from a nice to have to a must have.