HITInfrastructure

Networking News

Healthcare Wireless Networks Support Health IT Initiatives

Healthcare wireless networks are necessary to support advanced health IT infrastructure implementations.

Healthcare wireless networks

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations rely heavily on healthcare wireless networks to support the workflow and patient care resulting from advanced health IT infrastructure.

The healthcare sector is suffering because of the constant support required from the government for IT infrastructure spending, increase service costs, and the deterioration of services, according to a recent report released by the Practel Group.

The increasing demands and cost may hinder entities from fully upgrading and improving their wireless infrastructure. However, it does not take away from the importance of an up-to-date and future proof network.

Wireless communication enhances patient monitoring and helps clinicians automate routine procedures, which reduces the probability of mistakes due to human error.

The report also highlighted the significance of wireless communications standardization for medical applications. Organizations need to ensure that their network supports traditional wired devices, as well as different wireless devices, such as smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The continued adoption of IoT devices is one of the biggest changes healthcare organizations are experiencing with their networks. These devices are constantly communicating with the network and place pressure on the wireless local area network (WLAN).

Research suggests that the rise in WLAN technology is due to the demand for WiFi connectivity at all times. Clinicians and patients expect fast and secure network connectivity everywhere, no matter what task they are performing.

Clinicians are becoming more dependent on connected medical devices and patients are beginning to expect a more digitized approach to their care. A reliable wireless infrastructure is required to fulfill the demands of clinicians and patients.

Wireless networks also provide more than just connectivity. The network determines how quickly a clinician can access a patient record in an emergency situation.

“In a healthcare setting, the network has to be extremely reliable because it’s literally life or death,” Aruba Networks Product Marketing Manager Rick Reid told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview. “You have to plan coverage capacity, backup systems, and application intelligence just to make sure that things work - and that they work 24/7.”

These demands require organizations reassess and upgrade their wireless network to meet the traffic and speed demands.

More devices mean periods of heavier traffic that can slow down critical legacy systems. Organizations are faced with restricted bandwidths that can’t support the increased connections and are also challenged by physical barriers.

Large hospitals in urban environments need to adjust their wireless infrastructure to contend with other conflicting wireless networks in the area, as well as physical barriers (i.e. building materials) that block radio frequencies.

Most medical devices are required to have network connection capabilities. However, the devices cannot be fully utilized without the wireless network to support it. Advanced medical IoT devices include biomedical devices, physiological monitors, mobile medical apps, and MRI/CT/ultrasound scanners.

The wireless network is the foundation that supports all other IT initiatives, from EHRs to cloud computing. The network has to be robust enough to handle day to day traffic and needs to be flexible enough to handle larger processes such as data migration.

The amount of different systems and processes supported by the wireless network also requires a network management solution to give IT administrators visibility and control over their WLAN.

Network management solutions help manage advanced infrastructure technology such as virtualization, cloud, and the IoT. Network management solutions include device monitoring and can analyze how network bandwidth is affected by the devices accessing it. These solutions also monitors permissions so only authorized devices can access the network.

Healthcare organizations are faced with upgrading their network infrastructure to gain more network visibility and control over connected medical and IoT devices. Entities must do this while still supporting everyday workflow and data heavy projects.

Understanding what is required of the network and how to manage it will help organizations support the rest of their health IT infrastructure.