The Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) has connected its 1200 mobile staff on Telstra's Next G mobile network.
The RDNS provides nursing and healthcare across Melbourne and its northern suburbs to people in their homes and workplaces.
Some 1100 Fujitsu tablets are in use by staff and contractors to send patient reports back to a central repository and access the Medical Information Management Systems (MIMS) drug information database which assists with the drug administration.
RDNS information services general manager Ian Cash said the upgrade from 2G services to Telstra's 3G will allow the company to use more data intensive applications.
“We are everywhere in the field and you could never guarantee connectivity with GPRS and [the now defunct] CDMA," Cash said.
“We don't consider that we have an always-on network but we are confident we will have access within most homes.
“There has been a gradual growth in the number of transactions and the next step is to take advantage of new technology. Our use of mobile computing is built to make life easier for our nurses.”
Cash said the natural progression of mobile computing will extend the reach of RDNS into more remote areas.
“People say you won't get terrestrial broadband throughput in wireless, but the more eggs you put in the mobile basket, the better your capabilities will become,” he said.
The content system used for patient medical information on the Windows XP tablets have a stand-alone feature to prevent data loss during synchronisation with the central repository, meaning staff can continue working on the tablets during any loss in connectivity.
Cash said the RDNS is using technology in other ways to further digitise its processes.
Presently, patient medical referrals from doctors to the RDNS are sent by fax or PKI encrypted e-mail from clinics to the RDNS and stored in an electronic document management system to be attached to patient records. Cash said more hardcopy documents will be migrated to electronic form under an industry-wide push to electronic document management and processing.
“We are moving into more electronic clinical support so nurses can better plan care and perform more comprehensive assessments,” Cash said.
He said while the company has used mobile computing for a decade, local wireless hotspots are ineffective for mobile staff because it only covers about 1 percent of its client base.
RMDS is also unifying its Nortel call centre architecture to improve its reports and logging and unified communications functionality.
“Unified communications is often 'toys for boys’, so it needs to work for the whole business, not just management," Cash said.
All inbound communications, including inter-agency referrals, are captured and stored against databases which can then turn e-mails and voice messages into tasks.
He said the industry push to electronic referrals and e-health are behind the drive to unified communications, but conceded the government needs to do more to improve co-ordination.
“e-referrals are starting to get guernsey in the federal government, but most work is being done locally and it needs a push by government to get moving,” Cash said.