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California Hospital Offers Wi-Fi While You Recover

You can use surf the Web via Wi-Fi while sipping Starbucks or eating a Big Mac. Now you can do it while waiting for your broken leg to heal or your new baby to arrive.
El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., last week become one of the first hospitals to provide high-speed wireless access to patients and visitors, making access available throughout its hospital campus and two off-site dialysis centers.

It was those dialysis patients who helped prompt the hospital to consider providing public wireless access to visitor and patients, says El Camino CIO Mark Zielazinski. "Dialysis patients come for treatments two or three times a week, spending five or six hours here each time," Zielazinski says. Many must take time off work to receive dialysis, so they're eager to find ways of being productive and staying in touch during treatment.

Right now, access is free, but starting in September, visitors will be charged about $3 for 24 hours of access. The access will likely remain free for patients admitted to the hospital. Patients or visitors need to bring their own laptop computer or PDA to use the wireless services.

However, El Camino plans for its next hospital to have a "patient station device" at every bedside that can wirelessly access the Internet. That new hospital, now under construction, is scheduled to open between 2007 and 2009, and patients in that new building will be able to order food and access other hospital services from their bedsides, Zielazinski says.

El Camino has been "100% wireless" since last year, Zielazinski says. All hospital employees use tablet PCs, PDAs, or computers on rolling nursing carts for their work. "We've mobilized our application suite," he says. Hospital workers also use wireless voice-over-IP devices to communicate.

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