PDA (personal digital assistants) devices for bedside practitioners, like RNs, is inevitable. They will save money by making VS entry, assessment data entry, lab value inquiries, med administration recording, paging, phone call responding and other things like telemetry reading instantaneous.
My guess is that it is more than a few years away, but it will happen these little PDAs will cut costs by decreasing med errors and in the end will allow better management of patients by MDs because they will remotely be able to view VS and assessment data. This will decrease lawsuits and subsequently costs.
The technology to wirelessly equip a hospital unit and all bedside RNs is there. It's great stuff and it's cheap. The IIEE 602.11 protocol transfers data wirelessly at up to 2 Mbps for a 200-300 ft. radius. Plenty big for a hospital unit. The base stations are a few hundred dollars each and the PDA devices are the same. There are several companies that would run the neccessary servers and databases for this type of operation as well, and I don't that they are too expensive.
IMO medicine is a business kind of similar to any other. The idea is to make money while delivering a great product. It is only slightly different than other large sectors of our economy like say banking or insurance, in that the status quo that being in a non-profit type of environment has made the medical system neither money making or able to provide a great product IMO.
The bottom line is that change in hospitals is implemented very slowly even when it does save money, because the status quo is so embedded into this non-competitive environment.
But everyday technology breaks through what we thought possible, and then it becomes cheaper before our eyes. Nurses are the Captains at the bedside, information must come from the bedside more efficiently all the time or nurses aren't doing their jobs, and PDA devices are fast becoming mainstream business devices that will offer this solution. Just give it time.