No IT environment is more demanding than healthcare, which literally defines reliability in mission-critical information systems.
Optimal outcomes – in healthcare services, organisational budgets, IT efficiency and effectiveness and beyond – depend upon wireless LANs providing the best possible coverage, capacity and reliability for communications and patient telemetry monitoring, as well as low-latency access to often (very) large amounts of data, produced by MRI and CT imaging.
With more devices using Wi-Fi, including mission-critical systems, many hospitals are becoming a wireless-first network. The problem is that many hospital WLANs were not designed 3-5 years ago for the density and complexity of technology and devices that today's hospitals must now support, such as Electronic Medical Record (EMR) upgrades, a growing number connected and hand-held medical devices, network analytics and Computerised Physician Order Entry (CPOE) to name a few. As the risk of performance bottlenecks becomes the new challenge, a Wi-Fi network that offers patients and clinicians reliable connectivity, pervasive coverage and high bandwidth is more critical than ever. One of our customers, Doug McDonald, Network Manager for Henry Ford Health System, explains it like this:
"Wi-Fi is like oxygen; our hospitals can no longer live without it."
The new wireless standard, Wave 2 of 802.11ac, offers the very best possible combination of capabilities, enabling healthcare IT – and the medical professionals and patients who depend upon the network – to benefit from the most reliable, cost-effective, efficient and pervasive wireless services possible. Yet while the additional capacity, range and latency promised by Wave 2 plays especially well in the mission-critical healthcare environment where compromise is never an option, the fact that the same argument has been made for every new generation of Wi-Fi products makes the upgrade to the new standard difficult for healthcare IT managers to justify.
The timing for Wave 2 is now as hospitals are moving to digital hospitals, a place where IoT and healthcare meet. According to Gartner analyst, Barry Runyon, in the August 2014 report, Situational Awareness Is at the Heart of the Real-Time Healthcare System:
"Situational awareness is the engine behind various 'hospital of the future,' 'digital hospital' and 'smart patient room' initiatives. It is at the heart of the real-time healthcare system. Situational awareness involves: (1) gathering information; (2) understanding that information in context; and (3) making short-term projections based on the current state. HDOs are real-time healthcare systems to the extent that they have mastered situational awareness. HDO CIOs will need to create situational awareness and intelligence in an environment rich with device technology and immature in technologies that create an integrated intelligence that crosses the IT/OT divide."
About the Author
Bob Zemke is the Director of Healthcare Solutions at Extreme Networks where he is responsible for the healthcare market strategy. An IT professional with a broad span of experience in healthcare, Bob has over 14 years working both within hospital IT and as a consultant in next generation network design, deployment and management.
This article was originally published by Becker's Health IT and CIO Review