As a Wireless specialist working with over 25 NHS Foundation Trusts, Datrix has long understood the reliance that future cost-saving and technological initiatives will have on a secure, pervasive wireless network.
After last months' announcement by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, it seems that the UK Government has finally caught up, coming to understand the link between campus-wide wi-fi coverage and better patient care, increased patient safety and higher patient satisfaction scores.
This announcement is unsurprising when we consider the other major driver in the NHS today – the need to be paperless by 2020. Wireless technology plays a key part in the delivery of clinical workflow systems, EPR platforms, E-Prescribing software etc and without fully pervasive wireless coverage, trusts will find themselves struggling to meet the 2020 deadline. As the clinical community becomes ever more mobile, so must the technologies they rely on to deliver patient services.
Simply put, wireless has become a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
Although wi-fi technology has been steadily adopted across the sector, there are few trusts that would consider themselves to have fully pervasive, 100% wi-fi coverage across all of its premises. This latest announcement then, as well as the £1 billion worth of funding to go with it, is sure to have network managers across the NHS re-investigating wireless technologies and re-evaluating their current wireless infrastructures.
There are a great many vendors and deployment models available today, each offering their own unique selling points and solutions. There are however some common mistakes made when it comes to wi-fi deployments, no matter which technology is preferred.
Survey, Survey, Survey…
A physical site survey is the foundation of any successful wireless project. Unfortunately, the perception remains that wireless can simply be ‘thrown up’ and that coverage black spots can be remediated retrospectively with the addition of more access points. This over simplified approach to wireless creates a number of issues - poor performance chief among them. Financially, there are ramifications also, predictive and paper surveys can just as easily predict too many access points as they can too few, and in many instances customers are over spending on infrastructure.
The misconception that surveying is an expensive and unnecessary task needs to be addressed and quickly. Surveying acts as the foundation of a technology we expect to perform for 5-7 years, and, without performing adequate site surveys at the onset, we undermine the technology before it has ever been deployed.
Most commonly Wireless networks are designed for coverage and capacity. If we consider though that capacity in particular is a trait associated with the end device and not the wireless infrastructure itself, then how else do we plan and build our wireless networks?
Understanding application usage is by far the most important consideration when designing a wireless network. A wireless network designed for data traffic is going to differ greatly from a network designed for both voice and data. A VOIP capable wireless deployment is again going to differ immensely from a network designed for RTLS. Understanding which applications you wish to deliver over wireless, both at day one and over the lifecycle of the product, is easily the most critical consideration before making any investment.
Survey appropriately and understand your applications and wireless technology can become a key technology, enabling mobility among the clinical community and having a tangible and discernible impact on patient care. Fail to survey and design based on coverage and capacity alone, it may well become a time-consuming and expensive mistake.