By Josh Grossberg

Thanks to some cutting-edge technology, inpatient nurses and Keck Medical Center of USC will soon be able to connect with patients and other nurses and receive critical alarms just by reaching into their pockets.

In August, the center will receive 300 specialty iPhones that will enable inpatient nursing staff to work faster, smarter and easier.

“This will become their communication device,” said Keith Paul, chief technology officer for USC Health Sciences. “The idea is to give them one device to do everything.”

When the devices are fully functional, nurses will be able to receive secure messages from patients and other nurses, as well as emergency alerts. The phones, which will be equipped with larger batteries than normal and a tough shell casing, can also show colleagues when a particular nurse is available.

The phones will synch with KeckCare, the hospitals’ new electronic medical record system, which is currently being rolled out.

“In future KeckCare integration, when lab results come back, they can get it on the phone,” Paul said.

For security purposes, the devices will not have cellular abilities and will only function on campus. They will be able to make calls on the devices, but only through the campus’ secure Internet link.

Nurses currently use old-style cell phones with displays too small to show much data, Paul said.

Paul said he was in the market for new telecommunications devices when the representatives for the company installing KeckCare told him that they could link the system with the phones.

“I had to buy something,” Paul said. “And we had the voice-grade infrastructure.”

Nurses will not be given their own phone. Instead, they will pick one up at the start of their shift and enter their user identification and password to activate the device. They will return the phones to a charging station at the end of the shift.

Paul said nurses are excited about the phones, but he will see what future integration occurs before deciding whether to expand the use to other areas.

With new apps and technologies becoming available all the time, he thinks devices like this will become more and more common.

“The options are unlimited,” he said. “After all, you’re holding a computer in your hand.”