Medical and health care services need to be able to alert staff, dispatch specified staff to specified locations, and in an emergency such as a “code blue” alert, urgently request attendance at a particular location. In addition medical services may need to warn staff of particular circumstances – such as a security alert, or an impending major influx of cases.
Usually, medical and health systems of this type are site-specific – there is a well-defined site, with a variety of buildings, and the communication system must provide complete coverage over the site.
This often necessitates a dedicated paging system, for four reasons:
The system must provide complete coverage, even deep inside buildings, and this rules out the commercial networks. Commercial networks often work at higher frequencies and have less building penetration, the receiver devices are less sensitive, and there is not the capacity to carefully design and tune the transmitter aerials and power to ensure complete coverage over a very specific site. In contrast, dedicated paging systems can be designed to create specific coverage over a site, and the aerial location and design can be matched to the particular circumstances of the site.
The second reason is that the devices themselves must be very low power, to ensure that interference with highly sensitive medical equipment does not occur. In most hospital environments, and especially in intensive care situations, cellular receivers are typically forbidden due to their potential to create interference, and in the worst cases, due to their potential to ignite inflammable gases that can sometimes occur. Pagers operate at low RF power densities, create little interference, and can be designed to be intrinsically safe.
The third reason is that the networks often carry highly sensitive information, and the privacy of the content necessitates very high levels of security. This is most easily achieved in dedicated networks where both the receiver and transmitter are under unified control.
The medical system may require deep integration into other communication systems within the institution – such as IVR PABX, public announcements, alarms and SMS or mobile messaging.
Medical and health systems may also have specific requirements to interlock in-site in-building systems with wide area systems, as many health services have outreach programmes that cover regional territory outside of the confines of a site, or there may be a set of interconnected sites that are dispersed geographically. In such environments alerts, messages and call-out notifications may need to be cognizant of the current location of personnel, and may also need to be able to seamlessly integrate in-site messaging with wide-area messaging.
In addition to the above requirements, the medical and health areas offer a significant opportunity for two way systems – personnel can acknowledge their status, their availability, their location, their response to an alert, or their presence and attendance at a designated task. If carefully integrated into the dispatch and control function, the introduction of two-way paging systems (such as that currently under development by Infostream) provides very significant cost, efficiency and outcome improvements over typical one-way paging solutions.
Health solutions may also dictate specific requirements on the devices themselves. Apart from the necessity that they do not interfere with other sensitive equipment or potential cause health hazards, there is also the ever present requirement for the prevention of disease transmission. The need to be able to regularly disinfect devices to prevent disease transmission is becoming a standard requirement for all items that could contribute to such transmissions. In this case the introduction of waterproof pagers that can be immersed, such as the X5-w, are an important component of any complete health care solution.
The X5-w, as a waterproof pager, is ideally suited to medical applications