The Variety of Wireless Devices in Hospitals
From wearables to computers, how can you ensure your network will support them all?
Network managers know how challenging it is to provide a high-performing, consistent connection for complex organizations such as hospitals. Not only are these campuses large and expansive, consisting of a variety of structures and opportunities for interference, but they are also filled with thousands of devices. And these devices are all dependent on reliable Wi-Fi.
A wireless network has to provide high-quality coverage throughout the entire space, creating a network that allows medical staff to fully focus on caring for patients as efficiently as possible.
Here are some of the most common devices within hospital networks, and how IT staff can best structure the network to deal with them properly.
Medical devices and EHRs
First are the range of dedicated wireless medical devices now present in hospitals, including those that fall under the vast umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). These include physiological monitors, mobile apps, wearables, and scanners such as MRI, CT, or ultrasound machines.
All of them are important for hospital staff to provide necessary medical attention and services to patients. And some devices are critical to sustaining and monitoring a patient’s well-being.
Wireless medical devices have created a variety of systems for greater efficiency, improved patient safety, data accuracy and analysis, and enhanced mobility. All of these benefits drive higher levels of care while reducing costs and allowing for hospitals to handle a high volume of patients. Devices like bed monitors that detect a fall or movement, for example, can notify nurses as soon as there is a change in patient activity.
But wireless connections are also necessary for administrative tasks. Since many care systems have moved to integrate electronic health records (EHR), patient data can be automatically entered, giving both data and care decisions more accuracy and meaning.
This data—and the devices and systems that collect it—all rely on a dependable, continuous wireless connection.
The IoT also sustains a number of wearable devices that are relevant to the medical field. Juniper Research predicts that by 2023, the healthcare industry’s spending on wearables will reach $60 billion as these devices become must-haves in care settings.
Popular health-related wearables include watches such as the Apple Watch, which can track vitals like heart rate and sleep schedules, and may even provide monitoring benefits specific to certain conditions, such as diabetes patients. There’s also the Fitbit, which tracks daily movement and has some similar health-monitoring capabilities.
Within hospitals, dedicated wearables are used to track vitals of patients and constantly monitor them, as well as minimize the time it takes for nurses and doctors to gather important health data.
An interesting development in this realm—not just a wearable; also, an ingestible—is the FDA-approved Abilify MyCite, which is a pill that can track whether or not it’s been swallowed by a patient. This monitoring system works when the pill’s sensor sends a message to a wearable patch, which then sends information to an app. This technology helps doctors track the behavior of patients who have challenges taking their important medications.
Another example of a wearable for hospital patients is the BioPatch from Zephyr. It’s attached to the chest to track a patient’s vital stats every minute. If there is a problem, the medical staff is alerted immediately. The patch can also be used after a patient leaves the hospital for continued monitoring.
With all of these crucial medical-related devices trying to function in a given hospital, networks can become even more stressed by all of the visitor devices entering the network boundary. These include smartphones, tablets, laptops, personal wearables, and more—all of which try to connect to the Wi-Fi while visitors are in waiting or patient rooms. In addition to the importance of minimizing any strain on the network, these devices’ reliable connection is important for patient satisfaction scores which can influence hospital funding.
Important considerations for hospital networks
Connection is needed everywhere
Remember that devices need to sustain a connection while they roam about the hospital. There can be no “dead spots” within the facility, even in stairwells or hallways that don’t get much foot traffic. This is why it’s important to map out the space and place access points where they’ll have the best reach, while ensuring they are physically located in the highest-traffic areas.
Continuous monitoring is crucial
Only with effective wireless network monitoring can IT staff detect a problem before it reaches end users. This is a necessary aspect of hospital networking, where certain connections simply can’t be dropped or slowed.
Adequate support and prioritization are necessary
With the range of devices trying to connect, a wireless network strategy that can support all devices while sifting through and prioritizing signals is a must. As HIT Infrastructure says, “mission-critical data needs to have priority over IoT devices ‘chatting’ with the network.”
Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) from 7SIGNAL can help get this done—ensuring both critical and non-critical data are always collected reliably.
7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.