Wireless technologies might save U.S. hospitals

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The number of U.S. hospitals has decreased by 20 percent in the last 30 years, from more than 7,000 in 1975 to 5,747 in 2007. To counter the decrease, streamline processes and reduce costs, hospitals are increasingly turning to the use of wireless technologies, according to a report by Kalorama Information.

Staff shortages, shortfalls in Medicare reimbursements, non-paying patients, increases in medical errors and rising administrative and energy costs also plague hospitals.

According to the report by Kalorama Information, Wireless in Healthcare 2008 (The Market for Bluetooth, RFID, Zigbee, UWB WWAN, WMAN, WLAN and other technologies), the use of wireless technologies in healthcare continues to expand with hospitals leading the way.

Wireless sales in healthcare reached $2.7 billion in 2007, growing at 22.9 percent annually since 2005; and Kalorama said it expects continued strong growth with a compound annual growth rate of 29.5 percent resulting in sales of $9.6 billion by 2012.

The clinical environment is highly mobile—medical personnel need information they can act on fast, the report noted. A shortage of nurses and physicians creates pressure on hospitals to use staff more productively; and Kalorama said that implementing WPAN-enabled PDA units, radio-frequency identification (RFID) wands and other wireless technologies will help fewer nurses and doctors serve a growing number of patients in a more effective and efficient manner, while reducing errors and costs.

“It’s no surprise that hospitals are earmarking large portions of current and future budgets to wireless development,” said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama. “In 2003, 25 percent of U.S. hospitals had wireless. That figure will be somewhere between 80 and 90 percent in 2010.”

Approximately 72 percent of all healthcare organizations in the U.S. increased their IT budgets between 2006 and 2007, while 67 percent did so in 2005 and 60 percent in 2004, according to the report.

The report can be accessed directly from Kalorama Information.