Case Study: Care Group Health System

Company: Care Group Health System, Boston

Who they are: Hospital consortium

IT manager: Dr. John Halamka, CIO

IT goal: Improve patient care by eliminating errors caused by hard-to-read handwritten treatment orders and bringing full patient records -- including X-rays, CT scans and more -- to doctors anywhere in the hospital.

Strategy: Halamka set up wireless LANs in the intensive care, emergency and operating room areas. Users were given Dell Computer Corp. laptops with Cisco Systems Inc. Aironet WLAN adapters. These connect to a Bluesocket wireless gateway, which bridges the wireless traffic to the back-end, wired LAN.

Challenges: Wireless devices can interfere with pacemakers and other medical devices. WLAN devices must be kept 3 ft. from patients for safety.

Payoff: Doctors can immediately access patient records at bedside and enter patient care orders rather than writing them by hand and hoping that the caregivers can decipher the handwriting.

Comments: "So many doctors' orders are handwritten, and correctly interpreting them may make the difference between life and death. Doing it electronically eliminates that problem," Halamka says.

Robb is a freelance writer in Tujunga, Calif. Contact him at

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