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Using Broadband, Wi-Fi for Healthcare Internet of Things

Organizations investing in the healthcare Internet of Things need to understand how added devices impact the network and how to scale properly.

healthcare Internet of Things

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming more prominent in the industry as many organizations see the value in tracking assets and monitoring patient health digitally.

As more devices are added to the network, organizations need make sure that their network can accommodate more than the devices currently deployed to scale properly as more devices are added.

Clinicians and patients rely on connected devices to give and receive care. This dependency on information makes the network one of the most important pieces of health IT infrastructure.

Providers use IoT technology to keep track of medical tools and supplies, as well as monitor equipment so staff members know when maintenance is required. This saves clinicians time when it comes to locating the proper tools, and it saves money because organizations are able to do more preventative maintenance on tools so they last longer.

IoT devices are used for several different things in healthcare and not all connected devices are using Wi-Fi to communicate data. Wi-Fi, along with broadband, is needed to support a full ecosystems of connected medical devices from inside and outside the organization.

Broadband is becoming a more attractive and realistic option for healthcare organizations to overcome healthcare IoT connectivity issues.

Broadband offers more reliable connections and allows device users to be truly mobile. Broadband also offers remote capabilities for patients participating in telehealth programs.

Remote care and telehealth programs that depended on the patient’s home Wi-Fi network were often unsuccessful, especially when clinicians were visiting patients in rural or underserved areas. Home Wi-Fi connections were often unreliable and were not strong enough to transmit large files or stream video for conferencing.

Broadband is used for these situations because it extends over a larger area. Organizations are able to ensure that the broadband connection is secure by partnering with broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T to support their devices.

Broadband also allows IoT devices to be truly mobile. IoT devices depending on Wi-Fi connectivity have to constantly connect to and disconnect from different Wi-Fi networks as the user moves.

If the device is connected to broadband, it doesn’t have to keep reconnecting to different Wi-Fi networks and constantly ask for network permissions. This makes it the ideal option for clinicians using IoT devices while moving from building to building and for remote patients.

While broadband offers many mobile advantages, organizations cannot neglect their Wi-Fi solution. Organizations need to examine their network and determine if it can handle the number of added devices.

Wi-Fi networks that cannot handle the added strain end up becoming overloaded. This overload of traffic can cause bottlenecking, which slows the network down and makes it difficult for users to retrieve information.

In a healthcare environment, this is unacceptable. In emergency situations, clinicians need immediate access to patient files and congested networks can put patients in danger.

The best way to properly scale up the network to meet demands and plan for future added devices is to enter into a strategic partnership with a wireless vendor. Involving the engineering team from the vendor can make a significant difference in the network’s success.

While working with a vendor in this way can be expensive, it will save money in the long run because there will be less network failures to address and less quick fixes that need to be made. The more you can work with a vendor earlier on, the better.

A combination of Wi-Fi and broadband is key to healthcare IoT success. Providing both types of connectivity keeps network traffic spread out so organizations don’t experience traffic overload and lose control of their network.

As IoT networks continue to expand, dynamic network environments are needed to support the growth.

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