Sick surf the web in San Diego health facility

FRAMINGHAM (10/17/2003) - Public-access Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot spots have popped up just about everywhere you can think of -- from fast-food joints to tony hotels and in trains and planes. In what may be a first for the health care industry, Scripps Health in San Diego now plans to offer public Wi-Fi to hospital patients and visitors.

Rob Sills, information security officer at Scripps Health, which operates five acute-care facilities in the San Diego area, said Scripps has already started testing public-access Wi-Fi and eventually plans to offer it as an amenity to patients and visitors.

David Blumenfeld, vice president of JiWire Inc., a San Francisco-based operator of an international Wi-Fi hot-spot directory, said he has heard of no other hospital offering public Wi-Fi access. "It definitely seems like a natural extension, given the growing number of hospitals that are installing it for their doctors and nurses."

Scripps runs an operational wireless LAN with about 200 access points for its doctors and nurses. According to Sills, it can offer public Wi-Fi service over the same network because the company uses a wireless gateway from Bluesocket Inc. in Burlington, Massachusetts, which allows Scripps to segment public traffic from the operational network.

Scripps also intends to provide Wi-Fi access to vendors making sales calls at the hospital, which will allow them to access their corporate networks, Sills said.

He didn't provide a date when Scripps plans to fully activate the public Wi-Fi service.

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