Medical equipment and patient services are constantly evolving, and becoming more and more connected. Key to this is the implementation of a flexible networking solution which can handle the expanding connected applications within healthcare. In this article we will take a look at the use cases for WiFi in healthcare, and how it can help to meet these demands.
WiFi in healthcare has become a “must have”, with the WiFi Alliance predicting in 2016 that the market for WiFi healthcare services grew to $1.34 billion. The availability of the 802.11ac WiFi standard has driven much of this growth, as it provided the reliability and bandwidth required to connect critical healthcare applications across hospitals, care homes, doctor surgeries and mobile clinics.
Although this article will focus on some of the key applications being enabled due to advancements made in WiFi in healthcare, it is also worth noting that WiFi is no longer just a form of connectivity. It is also a source of valuable business intelligence by allowing organisations to collate behavioural and demographic data from users, as well as opening up the possibilities of new revenue streams via charged-for patient services or advertising opportunities. IDC states that “new WLAN applications for customer-facing location-based services, network analytics and in-venue WiFi-enabled tools, are leading to new monetization opportunities in retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, and other verticals.”
Connected Medical Equipment
Better information sharing is a key way to improve productivity and efficiencies. WiFi can be used to stream data from connected medical equipment direct to mobile devices or to work stations. This enables healthcare workers to access real-time patient information from any location, removing the need for physical patient files and improving the accuracy and level of information available about a patient’s wellbeing.
Using WiFi to push and receive data from at home technology or on-site critical machines, ultimately enables healthcare organisations to improve the information sharing between man and machine – streamlining hospital processes and alleviating staff workloads, while improving patient care.
By connecting equipment over WiFi, its location can also be monitored while asset tags on non-connected equipment, such as wheelchairs and beds, can extend this capability even further. Leveraging WiFi to track expensive assets helps healthcare organisations to reduce equipment losses and their associated costs, plus ensure that the correct equipment is in the correct location.
Guest WiFi in healthcare locations for patients and visitors means that outpatient wait times can be put to good use, and inpatients can stay connected to friends and family more easily. Healthcare organisations can also update individuals with the latest information direct to their connected mobile device, as well as enable services such as self-check in – all of which can help to streamline workflows while improving patient experience.
Using ePaper technology, healthcare facilities can deploy wireless ePaper displays to digitise room signs, which can then be managed remotely direct from the central calendar system. These long-life, battery-powered displays can be updated in near-to real time, streamlining processes for healthcare workers and providing a clear line of communication for employees, patients and visitors. Connected over the same access points which provide WiFi, they require no additional networking infrastructure if planned as part of a standard WiFi deployment.
Adopting advanced WiFi on a more significant scale can enable healthcare facilities to achieve their “healthcare of the future” goals, ensuring that their networks are flexible, scalable and reliable enough to manage their demands both today and tomorrow.
WiFi standards have advanced at a rapid rate in recent years, with 802.11ac leading the way in meeting the requirements for many connected healthcare scenarios. As Wave 2 becomes more prevalent this will expand WiFi capabilities even further for critical, high-bandwidth applications in the healthcare industry. The introduction of HaLow, the low-power wide-area WiFi standard, will also be important as healthcare organisations look to adopt Internet of Things applications on a wider scale. Providing a lower cost option designed to send small amounts of data over a greater distance, HaLow is perfect for connecting wearables and similar technologies which can further increase the information available about a patient’s wellbeing, while reducing workloads on staff.