With 2013 coming to a close, most of our office phones keep ringing with complicated issues that involve wireless devices. In 2014, we expect that trend to continue as more consumers add tablets to their tables and smartphones to their pockets. Some estimates indicate 64% of Americans now own a smartphone and more and more employers allowing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are feeling the squeeze on the available bandwidth.
These are issues that persist in the healthcare field as well, where wireless networks built to support BYOD policy take care of personal devices that might be utilized in a medical facility. The same network must also now take into account the devices that are running mission-critical EMR or EHR applications. Now, the consumer is beginning to understand the capacity issue. They are also learning to utilize many of the personal applications on a device to the benefit of their employer - speeding up their daily workflow.
A recent report based on a study of nearly 43,700 applications that reportedly had some type of health or medical benefit and were available on Apple's iTunes app store, found that only 54% of them were really “genuine” healthcare apps. According to the study, 69% targeted consumers and patients while 31% were developed for use by clinicians. In terms of the consumer healthcare apps, they were simple and didn’t do much other than provide a source of information.
Only 159 of the consumer apps could actually track or capture user-entered data meanwhile, fewer than 50 deal with condition management, providing tools and calculators for measurement of vitals by the end user. Why do any of those statistics matter? The fact is that more and more applications are being developed for one purpose or another and with the growing potential that some may turn into or become able to assist in medical care of patients. Therefore, having fast, reliable connectivity to support the wireless devices on which they run will be a continued trend in the years to come.
Another way healthcare organizations as a whole are now handling the capacity dilemma is by phasing in 802.11ac technologies that can co-exist with the 802.11n wireless access solutions in place. 802.11ac now has up to three times the bandwidth of 802.11n, which equates to more capacity. There are additional features that engineers and manufacturers can give more granular review of the benefits of the new technology, so the only additional input from a 30,000-foot viewpoint might be the fact that 802.11ac technology can actually perform cellular interference avoidance.
Healthcare environments can be a challenging place for wireless, based on the number of medical solutions currently utilizing the technology. Sample storage, temperature regulation, insulin pumps, medication carts now all are capable of utilizing wireless connectivity for functionality.
Now more than ever, with reduced IT staff and growing responsibilities with those that remain, having a centralized wireless network management tool is helpful. Being able to program, view and update all of your access points and wireless system via one interface is going to save a lot of time - and guess work.
Healthcare facilities large and small want to do their best to cut costs (see above staff reduction reference) but there is really no sense in cutting corners with wireless connectivity. Having a consumer-grade wireless access solution in a healthcare facility means that you’ve been urged to find a solution that is low on the one-time cost scale. The problem becomes if you don’t lay the groundwork by building the appropriate infrastructure to support where the medical field is heading, you are also cutting corners on patient care.
Think about building a house with no foundation. With the medical facility being the house and the wireless devices and healthcare-related applications and medical records management tools being the foundation, how can you expect the house to stand for very long?
So, if looking forward to new devices and or applications and wireless connectivity is involved in any manner, it’s important that you validate what’s currently in the environment and planning for the appropriate connectivity and enterprise-grade solution that will support your facility until the technology changes again.
We are experts on bringing mobility in hospitals and can help you plan for the future of mobility for your hospital wireless network. Just contact us here for any questions or for a free consultation.