Wireless radiology reporting gets Canadian test

February 25, 2002

The rapid evolution of wireless technology has made it possible for radiologists to use handheld computers to produce on-demand imaging reports within seconds. To tap this potential, Canadian radiologists have joined forces with suppliers to develop a

The rapid evolution of wireless technology has made it possible for radiologists to use handheld computers to produce on-demand imaging reports within seconds. To tap this potential, Canadian radiologists have joined forces with suppliers to develop a pilot project focusing on improving report workflow.

The recently formed Wireless Technology Consortium includes consulting firm Inet International, Palm Canada, Netmanage, Telus, and Compuware. The WTC began its wireless project by giving personal digital assistants (PDAs) to physicians in the radiology department at Hamilton Health Science, the largest provider of comprehensive healthcare in Ontario.

Prior to the PDAs, Hamilton radiologists dictated their reports, sent them out for transcription, then had them placed in mail slots. From there, physicians retrieved them for sign off or returned them for changes. Within the same hospital system, which also includes a facility at McMaster University, the reports can also be dictated and corrected on computers.

The problem is that radiologists are constantly moving between Hamilton sites, the university, and Hamilton General Hospital. If they aren't at the right place at the right time, or don't have access to a computer at a particular site, they can't do anything with the pending reports.

With a PDA, however, reports can be downloaded and corrected on the fly, creating efficiencies and potentially saving money for hospitals that employ administrative staff to get the reports approved.

"The demands on radiologists in today's fast-paced and cash-strapped hospitals are tremendous," said Dr. Brian Yemen, a Hamilton radiologist. "The possibility of transmitting radiology reports between hospitals and physicians on-demand is exciting. It will mean less time and travel for busy doctors. More important, it will mean faster turnaround and quicker results for patients."

Along with improving access to medical information and accelerating the overall delivery of healthcare, mobile wireless technologies also play a major role in lowering hospital IT infrastructure costs.

There is a huge cost difference between wired and wireless systems. Wiring a hospital requires pulling cable or fiber-optic lines through every office. With wireless, the same capability is realized with only a single cable to an antenna, and that antenna's signal reaches every office, at a fraction of the cost of wired solutions.

As hospitals today demand zero tolerance for software defects and downtime, wireless applications have the potential to prevent disruption to healthcare delivery due to bandwidth bottlenecks or other hardware infrastructure problems.