A distributed data processing network includes multiple memory card databases at terminal nodes of the network. The network is programmed to automatically perform routine communications operations such as conveying identification information between the terminal nodes and interior nodes. The network is implemented in a hospital environment and the databases include information on patients and hospital personnel. Using the automatic communications facilities of the network patient information from the database is displayed at a nurse station when the patient initiates a nurse-call or automatically when medication, also recorded on the card, is due. In addition, the system may be used to locate hospital personnel and equipment, to audit the use of controlled substances and to automatically assemble emergency response teams.