Healthcare

Wireless and Wellness: A Technical View of the Health Care Industry

Written by Bill Roberts*, President, Network Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

The life-and-death decisions made every minute in the Health Care industry create high pressure, complex organizations that are continuously implementing technologies to improve patient care. Hospitals, clinics, and doctor offices are increasingly turning to wireless techologies to work more efficiently, comply with strict regulations, and make their patient’s overall experience better.

Stanley Healthcare has identified several ways wireless technologies are being utilized today in the Healthcare Industry:

  • Managing Staff Workflow – Nurses today wear ID badges with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that works with the hospital’s Wi-Fi network. Their movements are tracked throughout their shift and analyzed to identify potential process improvements.
  • Tracking Equipment – Hospitals can use wireless technologies to track the real-time location of critical equipment and even its condition.
  • Environmental Monitoring – different areas in hospitals need to maintain narrow temperature and humidity levels. A wireless network can allow hospitals to record temperatures at regular intervals and be automatically alerted if conditions exceed a predetermined range.
  • Patient Security – One example is RFID tags for newborn babies, preventing abductions. Another example is where a staff member wearing an RFID tag entering a patient’s room will trigger their photo, name and job function appearing on the patient’s in-room screen.
  • Analyzing Operational Data – All of the wireless sensors used in hospitals generate tremendous amounts of data. This data can be mined to provide new insights into hospital operations never before available to hospital leaders.
  • Patient Experience – bring your personal laptops and tablets to your patient room, waiting room and stay connected.

Healthcare facilities need to support the bandwidth requirements of multiple patients, staff, and critical equipment.

A solidly designed and installed wireless network cabling infrastructure allows healthcare facilities to deliver quality care to patients by:

  • Supporting technologies such as Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony, wireless internet access (WiFi), IPTV (Television over IP networks), electronic health records, and IP Security
  • Providing the scalability to increase bandwidth with rising demand
  • Reducing manual/redundant communications
  • Helping healthcare administrators reduce overall costs by implementing more efficient processes, while increasing the overall quality of patient care

Network Design

Hospital wireless networks need to be designed at industrial strength – and then some.

The wireless network design must begin with a thorough site assessment; and, hospitals are sites like no others. Experience has shown that the rules that apply to typical office buildings must be thrown out the window when planning a hospital wireless network.

A complete RF (Radio Frequency) survey that produces a heat map will determine the strength of your WiFi connection on different floors and sides of the facility. It will also identify and predict potential signal interference challenges from surrounding areas.

A hospital cannot have too many wireless access points. An extremely high-density design is critical, requiring more APs per square foot than a typical office building. Just as important as density is location, location, and location. For example, concentrated areas with high levels of stainless steel equipment or medical devices emitting RF interference may demand even higher density. Medical facilities can require double, even triple, the number of access points that are typical of other installations.

Security

Because hospital wireless networks are carrying patient medical data, high levels of network security must be ensured. Traffic must be encrypted to levels as mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means implementing WiFi Protected Access (WPA2) encryption. In addition to WPA2, hospitals need to implement intrusion detection systems.

Cabling Infrastructure

TSB-162-A, “Telecommunications Cabling Guidelines for Wireless Access Points”, expressly provides the following recommendation and note:

Cabling for wireless access points should be balanced twisted-pair, category 6A or higher, as specified in ANSI/TIA-568-C.2, or two-fiber multimode optical fiber cable, OM3 or higher, as specified in ANSI/TIA-568-C.3.

NOTE – The use of category 6A (or higher) twisted-pair and OM3 (or higher) optical fiber cabling is recommended to support higher data rates and, in the case of twisted-pair cabling, lower temperature rise when remote power is applied.

Conclusion:

If a Healthcare facility carefully designs, installs, and continually maintains a robust wireless network, they can realize unprecedented benefits – patient monitoring, patient mobility, patient security, administrative cost savings, and overall improved efficiency and patient care quality.

*Excerpts taken from the article, “Six Ways Wireless Technology Is Transforming Health Care”, as featured in ITBusinessEdge.

For more information on Healthcare wireless network infrastructure assessments and installations from Datatrend, contact Bill Roberts at bill.roberts@datatrend.com. You can also consult with a Datatrend representative by calling 800-367-7472.

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