A project that placed WiFi at the heart of a new hospital IT system was the worthy winner of the Public Sector Project of the Year award. Systems integrator, Telindus bagged the award for its integration of Wi-Fi at the Royal Hospitals Group, Belfast.

The 6,800-staffed healthcare trust has - in line with the NHS’s 10 High Impact Changes to Healthcare Trusts, within the NHS Modernisation Agency - become the first in the UK to introduce such a wireless project on a large scale.

Royal Hospitals identified a need for a stable, reliable and secure wireless solution for its material management system. The Group wanted to move away from paper-based systems that had room for errors or misinterpretation of handwritten notes.

Telindus proposed a secure mobility installation based on Trapeze Networks’ WLAN equipment, allowing the Royal Hospitals Group to securely manage the material system centrally and efficiently. The system, which went live in March 2005, now covers a third of the Hospital Group.

The integration of location-technology Ekahau WiFi tags within the network, allows staff to locate people and assets in real-time, and in a fast efficient manner. The tags feature an emergency alert button for both staff and patients, sending instant distress-signals or messages via a location and map tool. This allows patients to move more freely around the hospital campus.

The RH group is also piloting a ‘bed head’ prescription solution whereby doctors post prescriptions to the pharmacy in real-time via tablet PCs. This has reduced administration time from three hours to one, allowing patients to discharge patients and free beds more efficiently.

Paul Duffy, IT Manager at the Royal Hospitals, said: “The implementation of the wireless technology by Telindus has helped us move away from having to have doctors return back to ward-based stations to input information.”

Staff using PDAs have greater mobility and can access information and applications from the hospital network from anywhere within a ward. The hospitals have also deployed a new voice communication system called Vocera, which when integrated with the Royal’s new IP Telephony system and also with external sites, allows staff to communicate more efficiently with colleagues across the site.

In the long term, the Vocera hands-free lightweight badge – small enough to be worn around the neck – would possibly replace the need for pagers, DECT phones, two-way radios and mobile phones across the Hospitals Group.

“Since the wireless network has been installed, we have been able to make considerable cost savings through improved efficiency in the material ordering system; and the design of the wireless network itself means that it has been easy to manage,” said Christy Donnelly, network manager for Royal Hospitals.

For a full list of winners, please look at the Techworld awards section.