Health care consortium Master Health Services Brisbane (MHS) in Australia has deployed a wireless network and VPN to improve treatment efficiency.

The network will enable doctors and visiting practitioners to access patient records, track surgical equipment and make calls within MHS' 32 operating theatres. Visiting practitioners can use the VPN to remotely access updated patient records from their offices, where they previously had to carry possibly old data via laptops.

MHS will install the technology over the next 18 months in its seven hospitals and says it will provide the foundation for a roll out of health care applications. MHS Brisbane, which has the system successfully operating in its South Brisbane adults' hospital, cares for around half a million people annually and employs more than 5000 staff.

The MHS network is built on provider Cisco's 4100 series wireless LAN controllers and Cisco Aironet 1000 series lightweight access points. A touch screen application tracks surgical instruments as they progress through sterilization, and as they enter and exit the operating theater.

MHS Brisbane CEO Malcolm Thatcher said the technology is critical to the consortium's 'smart hospital vision' strategy.

"Choosing the right networking partner was absolutely critical to the future of our smart hospital vision, as the network is at the heart of what we want to achieve," Thatcher said. "Cisco was the only vendor which demonstrated its thorough understanding of the health sector and is making significant investments in the area."

Cisco Queensland regional manager, John Winters said, "The benefits which IP-based networking can provide organizations such as MHS go well beyond e-mail and Web searches towards true, real-time interactivity with the information the care providers need."