MedLAN : compact mobile computing system for wireless information access in emergency hospital wards
As the need for faster, safer and more efficient healthcare delivery increases, medical consultants seek new ways of implementing a high quality telemedical system, using innovative technology. Until today, teleconsultation (the most common application of Telemedicine) was performed by transferring the patient from the Accidents and Emergency ward, to a specially equipped room, or by moving large and heavy machinery to the place where the patient resided. Both these solutions were unpractical, uneconomical and potentially dangerous. At the same time wireless networks became increasingly useful in point-of-care areas such as hospitals, because of their ease of use, low cost of installation and increased flexibility. This thesis presents an integrated system called MedLAN dedicated for use inside the A&E hospital wards. Its purpose is to wirelessly support high-quality live video, audio, high-resolution still images and networks support from anywhere there is WLAN coverage. It is capable of transmitting all of the above to a consultant residing either inside or outside the hospital, or even to an external place, thorough the use of the Internet. To implement that, it makes use of the existing IEEE 802.11b wireless technology. Initially, this thesis demonstrates that for specific scenarios (such as when using WLANs), DICOM specifications should be adjusted to accommodate for the reduced WLAN bandwidth. Near lossless compression has been used to send still images through the WLANs and the results have been evaluated by a number of consultants to decide whether they retain their diagnostic value. The thesis further suggests improvements on the existing 802.11b protocol. In particular, as the typical hospital environment suffers from heavy RF reflections, it suggests that an alternative method of modulation (OFDM) can be embedded in the 802.11b hardware to reduce the multipath effect, increase the throughput and thus the video quality sent by the MedLAN system. Finally, realising that the trust between a patient and a doctor is fundamental this thesis proposes a series of simple actions aiming at securing the MedLAN system. Additionally, a concrete security system is suggested, that encapsulates the existing WEP security protocol, over IPSec.