subsequent shifts. Some hospitals’ medication administration systems require barcode scanning of the ID
wristband issued during registration and the medication label to ensure the correct medication is given to
the correct patient. The system alerts the nurse if any
scanned information is inconsistent with the prescription, such as incorrect patient, inaccurate medication or
dosage, and invalid time for medication delivery. Some
form of identification (such as barcoded wristband or
RFID tags) that patients wear throughout their hospitals stays and that can be validated by embedded wireless security features is imperative for patient safety, and
nurse and hospital liability protection.
Effectively designed UA initiatives can help allay
potentially fatal errors, improve patient safety, and
boost overall quality of care. Additionally, UA provides
a comprehensive view of the patient’s medical information, which is imperative for caregivers to effectively
and efficiently service patients at every point in the
care system. Caring for the patient’s data is as important as caring for the patient because poor patient data
quality could lead to a fatality.
The U.S. health-care industry has been a laggard
when it comes to IS investments. This should change
as evidence—sometimes difficult to quantify in dollars
but easily identified in care- and work-quality terms—
of the return on investments from implementations
are publicized. Such evidence includes the 250% error
reduction in the drug-ordering process that saved
nearly $300,000 from 2002 to 2003 at the completely
wireless El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, CA
[ 2]. Access to information is vital to the way hospital
staffs do business, and it will soon be known that tethered technologies cannot deliver the performance
needed to adequately decrease administrative workloads and promote patient safety, especially for
extremely mobile work forces.
It is possible that U.S. hospital administrators are
comfortable with the performance of tethered systems,
in which they have made substantial investments. As
the status quo, tethered computing appears to have
become a sustaining technology (in that it maintains
the rate of historical performance improvements that
stakeholders expect [ 1].) Therefore, for many hospital
administrators, UA may be viewed as a disruptive technology (requiring process reengineering, technical
restructuring, and/or systems integration). This label
may not be the most effective way to foster acceptance
of UA, particularly in more conservative health-care
organizations. As it has been claimed: “Health care
may be the most entrenched, change-averse industry
in the U.S.” [ 1].
It would be more helpful for hospitals to view these
technologies not as disruptive, but as dovetailing, a
convergence of the technology characteristics, organizational assets, and task performer’s capabilities that
disrupts the old economics of the task without disrupting the task environment or the relationship
between patient and nurse [ 8].
Under these circumstances, UA can help reduce
documentation errors and preparation time while
improving information quality and nurses’ working
environments. Hospitals that embrace UA can increase
patient safety across a wide range of caregivers, departments, and responsibilities. By collecting and delivering vital information when and where it is needed
most—at the point of care—hospitals can spur their
transformation into more efficient and effective and
safer institutions. c
1. Christensen, C., Bohmer, R., and Kenagy, J. Will disruptive innovations
cure health care? Harvard Business Review (OnPoint Collection) 18, 29
2. Colliver,V. The ‘smart’ hospital of the future. San Francisco Chronicle
(Feb. 23, 2004); www.primidi.com/2004/02/24.html#a751.
3. Datamonitor. IT Infrastructure Trends in U.S. Health Care Providers. 2004.
4. Heath, C. and Luff, P. Technology in Action. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, U.K. 2000.
5. Health Care Information Management Systems Society. Analytics: Market
Research. The Essentials of the U.S. Hospital IT Market (2007);
6. Institute of Medicine. To err is human: Building a safer health system.
7. Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. Health
care at the crossroads—strategies for addressing the evolving nursing crisis.
8. Lyytinen, K. and Yoo, Y. Issues and challenges in ubiquitous computing.
Commun. ACM 45, 12 (Dec. 2002), 63– 65.
9. Lyytinen, K. and Rose, G. Disruptive nature of information technology
innovations: The case of Internet computing in systems development
organizations. MIS Quarterly 27, 4 (2003), 557–595.
10. Monegain, B. Report: Health care IT spending to grow to $39.5 billion by
2008. Health Care IT News (Jan. 06, 2006); www.health careit-
11. Sorensen, C. and Pica, D. Tales from the police: Mobile technologies and
contexts of work. Information and Organization 15, 3 (2005), 125–149.
12. Skov, M. and Hoegh, R. Supporting information access in a hospital ward
by a context-aware mobile electronic patient record. Personal & Ubiquitous
Computing 10, 4 (2006), 205–214.
CHON ABRAHAM ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an assistant
professor of management information systems in the Mason School of
Business at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.
RICHARD T. WATSON ( email@example.com) is the J. Rex Fuqua
Distinguished Chair for Internet Strategy in the Terry College of
Business at the University of Georgia in Athens.
MARIE-CLAUDE BOUDREAU ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an
associate professor of management information systems in the Terry
College of Business at the University of Georgia in Athens.