Wireless Technology in Health Care: Benefit or Liability?

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Wireless communication technologies have been around for many years now; are medical facilities using the technology, and how is it affecting work in health care? Is the technology improving health care, or is it simply another potential security risk? Let us take a look at only two of the technologies: LifeNet and iPads.

LifeNet, allows paramedics to transmit a heart attack patient’s EKG from his home or the ambulance to the hospital in seconds, well before the patient arrives. This allows emergency room staff to prepare for the patient before arrival, potentially save his life. Doctors can even receive a patient’s EKG on their smart phones. The technology is not yet widespread, but fourteen hospitals in Dallas, Texas benefit from the convenience and speed of the new technology (Christian, 2012). This article provides more information, including patient testimonials.


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Another technology that may increase in use in hospitals is the iPad for medical records and other medical applications that improve staff and patient interactions. According to a story produced in collaboration with National Public Radio, one San Diego hospital is making limited use of iPads for medical workers. A physician assistant, Kate Franko, uses the iPad to show her patient how his kidneys appear to be functioning following a transplant (see link below for the story). She also uses medical applications that allow her to educate her patients about medical information they inquire about, such as anatomy drawings and drug interactions (Gold, 2011).


Although most of these devices appear to improve efficiency and convenience, the potential exists for medical records to be lost, stolen, or sent to unintended recipients. As wireless technology use increases, health care institutions may need to decide how much the benefits outweight the risks. Would you be happy to see your physician, PA, or nurse show you your medical records or pull up anatomy drawings to illustrate examples on her iPad, or would you be more concerned about your records being compromised if someone stole her highly portable device? Would the benefit of your surgeon receiving your EKG at the hospital before your arrival outweigh the risks of your medical records ending up in the wrong hands?

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