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PHOTO CAPTION:  Bernice McGrath of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, a military spouse residing at Fort Bliss for three years, studies on a smart-phone while waiting in the Soldier Family Care Clinic, here, Feb. 1, 2012. Army Medical Command is scheduled to begin a pilot program utilizing Wi-Fi in patient waiting areas at Brooke Army Medical Center at San Antonio to facilitate higher patient utilization of time, and overall satisfaction.  Photo Credit: Sgt. Barry St. Clair

April 15, 2013
By Sgt. Barry St. Clair

FORT BLISS, Texas - Almost everyone can remember past doctor visits: sitting in a crowded room full of fussy children and sniffling patients while staring at industrial-décor on the walls - waiting.

The mobile world has changed much of the way we do business including the opportunity to read a book, write emails, do homework, trade stocks, or update status on a variety of social platforms. The medical industry is also taking strides to make waiting areas more pleasant, interactive, and even entertaining or informative.

The Army Medical Department is considering a makeover as well, by evaluating patients' use of Wi-Fi installed in waiting areas at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Soldiers and families are busier than ever, and the demands of meeting deadlines, taking care of soldiers and connecting with family can be met while waiting for a checkup at the doctor's office.

The 180-day pilot program, which will run through mid-July there, will enable beneficiaries to connect to Wi-Fi while in the hospital using their personal tablets, smart phones or any other web-cable wireless device.

Maj. Cynthia Buchanan of Dallas and the officer in charge of Soldier Family Care Clinic and Traumatic Brain Injury clinic on West Fort Bliss and the medical clinic on McGregor Range, N.M., supports the use of Wi-Fi in patient waiting areas to increase soldier and family efficiency and quality of life.

Buchanan supports the use of Wi-Fi in patient waiting areas to increase Soldier efficiency and quality of life.

"[It] would really be nice to be able to work while waiting [for an appointment]," said Buchanan, who has served in the Army for 14 years.

"Hospital commanders and clinic administrators have been asking for this for years," said Maj. Darrin M. Vicsik, chief of information management with William Beaumont Army Medical Center here.

However, the legal review of the types of funds that commanders could use to provide this service [Wi-Fi] as well as concerns from the information assurance communities' have blocked individual hospitals from creating their own solution.

"The Medical Command led initiative, for which Brooke Army Medical Center [San Antonio Military Medical Center] is the pilot test, is a great step forward," said Vicsik.

WBAMC policy here for adult patient waiting areas here is to provide news programming where news feeds are available, and allows the use of smart phones and mobile devices where mobile networks are available, but due to building construction and cell tower strength, mobile signals may not be available in all areas.

Places at WBAMC where use of mobile devices and signals are prohibited are clearly marked.