Anyway, what does it mean “to do more”? In a nutshell, they still have to deliver quality healthcare services to the growing number of patients in a reliable, economical, secure, and efficient way without resorting to the evident solution—employing more staff and upgrading their tools to effectively respond to those increasing demands.
At first sight, these limited resources may cause a headache for hospital executives, but the use of new technology may alter these given circumstances in a positive way. As a matter of fact, wireless technology creates a highly connected healthcare environment with robust reporting and monitoring features which are helping hospitals to address in full measure the challenges above. And, what’s more important, this environment is rebuilding the future of healthcare for both patients and healthcare professionals. As Becker ’s Hospital Review contributor Jay White stated: “Wireless medical devices are not new, but they are about to have a much larger impact because of the way that forward-looking hospitals are linking them together to create truly connected environments.”
Secondly, wireless technology has a profound impact on the areas of patient safety, data accuracy, and mobility. The encryption of a hospital’s main wireless network limits unauthorized access to a patient’s protected health information. In addition, a network must meet the most recent security standards like Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the practice which leads to avoiding HIPAA violations caused by data breaches.
True, the appropriate functioning of healthcare wireless network may be facing a number of serious challenges. However, the application of some industry best practices makes it possible to overcome them.
The first task to work on is the most obvious (but quite often the most complex) – the reliability of the network. “In a healthcare setting, the network has to be extremely reliable because it’s literally life or death. You have to plan coverage capacity, backup systems, and application intelligence just to make sure that things work – and that they work 24/7,” adds Rick Reid, Aruba Networks Product Marketing Manager.
The proper planning takes into account all possible digital and physical obstacles such as the blocking of radio frequencies (RFs) by building materials. As a rule, the devices have to work everywhere on campus: in the stairwell, in the lobby, and in the hallways, with no dead spots. Additionally, to gain full visibility and control over the network, organizations must understand the process of data flow and set the priority of connected devices as wireless networks don’t just need to support all connected devices if the traffic is high. What they really need is to prioritize signals and tell the difference between a clinician looking at a patient record during a routine checkup and a clinician looking at a patient record in the ICU or emergency room. The network needs to determine which action is more urgent. The well-timed maintenance is also on the to-do list. As one can’t simply shut down operations in an ICU unit or emergency room to perform routine maintenance on the network APs, a management solution that recognizes connectivity patterns and identifies periods of low activity is also a must-have feature.
The secure Wi-Fi connection is another important factor unless you want to put in jeopardy patient safety. Medical devices like infusion pumps, patient monitors or MRI/CT ultrasound scanners require a rigorous set of security protocols and continual connectivity. These devices continuously measure key parameters of a patient including blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, so they need to be continuously connected to ensure accurate data and instant alerts to nurses for better patient safety. And here’s where 5G comes in hand. Its mission – the support for Internet of things (IoT) — is more than providing simple support for many wireless devices. Security is perhaps the key technical problem, and a specific feature of 5G, network slicing, would provide a way to separate sensor-control networks from other wireless users. That could be a giant yet timely step in providing security for IoT gadgets as according to numbers by Forbes, the market for IoT devices in healthcare is expected to reach $117 billion by 2020.