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Healthcare Mobility December 10, 2012

Posted by cgreigmu06 in Mobility.

I would like to propose an opportunity for mobile computing in the current healthcare industry.  From a recent visit I had to the hospital, I noticed a few things that could be improved upon with the simple implication of a few simple mobile computing devices.  For those that may not know, there are many levels of hospital staff (nurses, doctors, therapists, and technicians) who all work together to accomplish one goal, making sure that the patient is cared for and will hopefully leave the hospital in better shape than when they first came.  Using mobile technology, we can improve the care that is provided by the hospital staff.

As of right now, technology is a main part of current hospital care, but it is also one area that is vastly under used and unknown [1].  Each area of the hospital is divided into units.  Patients are assigned depending on the type of care they need.  A typical room which is located in a unit, (each unit has 5 –  25 rooms) is equipped with a desktop PC and another PC located outside of the room, which can be used to monitor when the patient is sleeping or family is visiting.  Monitors outside of the room are also used to monitor multiple rooms.  Staff can also view their patients anywhere in the unit as long as they have access to a PC strategically placed around the unit.  A final set of PCs are located at the nurses’ station which also helps in monitoring patients, but  none of these devices talk to one another when the nurses move around the unit.

With all of the available workstations, it would be very beneficial to integrate all of these devices with sentient [2] and context aware [3] computing.  The following will go through some examples and in more detail of how the system will work in the hospital environment.


When dealing with a patient, many areas are working together to help care for the different aliments a patient may have.  With the help of the mobile computing device, nurses will have a better chance of staying on top of any situation.

  •  Situation –For example, when a patient enters into a hospital, medical labs are drawn in order to determine the cause of an illness.  On occasion, due to some form of a lack of communication, a lab result is lost or a problem is detected, but this information is not always straight forward in coming to the nurse when the lab result is needed.
  • Benefit – Each lab should contain an RFID tag that will keep track of an order and notify the nurse or other staff members if anything has gone wrong or when it is available.  These types of warnings can then popup on any mobile device or desktop PC depending on where the nurse is, telling them about the problem.  Also, it would be beneficial for the staff member to be able to track pending orders, so that they can send notifications to the lab department if a particular lab is not moving along properly.
  •  Outcome – Having clearer lines of communication between the two areas will hopefully increase any chance of problems occurring anywhere in the workflow and provide the best care to each patient that enters the hospital.


As we know from our own experience each situation is different, but there is normally an underlying factor that is related in some way or another.  The mobile environment that has been introduced will also benefit from incorporating context aware pervasive systems into its functionality.  One of the hardest and most critical steps in dealing with a patient is diagnosing what could be causing the problem.  With context aware, we will be able to research through millions rows of data to help in determining what could be the root of the problem.  Also it would be helpful in locating certain things or people.

  •  Situation – For example, a patient has some rare form of lung tissue scaring which is causing their lack of breathing, with the device search through other known diseases, it identifies the problem and then notifies the respiratory therapist to come and check on the patient right away.  This may not be the case for every situation, but it shows how each device will communicate with each other to solve a particular problem.
  • Goal – When looking at the system more closely, each device will be able to talk to each other, using the latest operating system and using a system that can talk between the different computer languages.  The context aware sensors will be used to help monitor patients and control certain environment items (temperature, air pressure, etc.), anything that could affect the health of the patient.  Each unit will have its own dedicated server that will handle the entire request.  Backup servers will be in place to switch any overloading areas to other units in the hospital.
  • Outcome – This will then help contact and locate a particular staff member alleviating any additional stress on the nurse or other hospital staff members.


As with any technology, we like to increase the boundaries and provide new state of the art innovation.

  • Situation – Each patient is normally hooked up to a monitor which keeps track of their different vitals.  Currently this is viewed on a monitor in a line graph format.  Using a tangible user interface [4] we would be able to view this on a mobile device (mobile eyepiece) showing a 3D representation of the patients’ current heartbeat, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
  • Goal – Having a visual of the patient may help determine a particular problem or make detecting one a little more clearly.  The mobile eyepiece will provide the most mobility, providing the care givers with a hands free device that will not interfere with their line of work.
  •  Outcome – This technology would be helpful, but it could not possibly show a true representation of the human anatomy.   It would only be using data to the best of its predicting knowledge, and from other sources of how the 3D representation should look based off how the computer language interrupts the information being fed to the device.  X-rays will still need to be applied when gaining this inside knowledge, but the mobile device would provide a quick representation.


As we know with every new technology the risk of loss of personal data is the most talked about topic.

  • Situation – In order to keep this as secure as possible, the hospital will have its own secured network that the staff member will have the privilege of using.  Each staff member will be assigned their own personal identification, along with each device, equipment, patient, etc. which will also be tracked with an RFID tag.
  • Goal – If an item is moved to a wrong location or being used in a wrong way, a notification is sent to the security department.  There will also be a way for staff members to quickly and securely notify a supervisor or security of a potentially harmful situation.
  • Outcome – This system could be problematic if there are any faulty sensors, so each tracking sensor will need to communicate with the other sensors to verify that they are working correctly.


The main cost of the system will be in its components (sensors, eye pieces, software, etc.), training and ongoing maintenance.

  • Situation – The PCs, monitors, and current RFID tracking devices will need to be integrated with the new mobile computing devices.
  • Goal – Sensors can cost anywhere between a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on the typical usage.   Each room will have a handful of sensors and a unit will have hundreds of sensors, the larger the area the more expensive it will be to implement each sensor.   Mobile eyepiece devices will cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousands of dollars, but this price will gradually decrease as time goes on.  The price will increase with the more employees a unit has.  The devices can be transferred between each shift, but it will be more beneficial if employees have their own device designed to their own specifications.   Software will also cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the number of licenses and applications.
  •  Outcome – Bulk purchases will help to reduce the cost.  Implementing a fully sentient and context aware computing system will be expensive, but it will be essential for hospitals to stay current with their present technologies.


Patient care is most important in a hospital setting, but if the staff members are not using their resources to the highest potential, care is going to be affected.  Mobile computing will help staff members to diagnose, care, and treat patients faster, leading to a better experience and wellbeing.  Life gets a little easier with each technological advancement.




[1] http://www.ehow.com/facts_7164156_use-technology-lacking-united-states_.html

[2] Sentient Computing. Andy Hopper. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 358 (Aug. 2000), pp. 2349-2358. DOI=10.1098/rsta.2000.0652.

[3] A Survey of Context-Aware Mobile Computing Research. G. Chen and D. Kotz. 2000. Tech. Rep. TR2000-381, Department of Computer Science, Dartmouth College (Nov. 2000)

[4] Tangible User Interfaces: Past, Present and Future Directions. Eva Hornecker and Orit Shaer. Foundations and Trends® in Human-Computer Interaction, vol. 3, issue 1-2 (2009), pp. 1-137. DOI=10.1561/1100000026. Also available at http://strath.academia.edu/EvaHornecker/Papers/167491/Tangible_User_Interfaces_Past_Present_and_Future_Directions.



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