The case for next generation Wi-Fi in healthcare environments

Fast, efficient Wi-Fi is not just nice to have, but absolutely critical in hospital environments.

We are no longer prepared to accept second-rate or poor quality Wi-Fi for our homes or businesses, so we certainly should not expect it within hospitals and other healthcare environments. The use of mobile applications and cloud services is becoming more and more popular in healthcare, leading to an unprecedented demand for wireless that is fast, efficient and reliable.

Clinicians expect to benefit from faster, more efficient and easier access to clinical data and patient information via electronic medical record systems and immediate access to scans and X-rays, while providing the best quality of care for patients. At the same time, we are seeing a rise in the number of Wi-Fi enabled and smart medical devices like wireless EKGs and infusion pumps.

Hospitals have started to make significant investments in technology over recent years to help drive improvements in patient safety, clinician productivity and patient satisfaction. The concern is that improvements from such technologies can only be realised with robust and reliable Wi-Fi.

Hospital ecosystems consist of life-critical, mission-critical and consumer-critical applications – each of them having different requirements from wireless.

Wi-Fi is a shared medium. In most environments, applications compete for the same resources and can interfere with each other. Legacy Wi-Fi networks, based on out-dated and unreliable network technology, have other limitations - especially in highly mobile environments that make it challenging to deliver the kind of reliability you need in hospitals.

With the specific needs of hospitals and healthcare in mind, wireless technology like the Uninterrupted Care Network (UCN) enables hospitals to create separate, dedicated Wi-Fi channels for life-critical, mission-critical and consumer-critical applications, utilising unique RF Channel Layering technology.

Based on the latest 802.11ac wireless standard, providing faster, more robust ‘gigabit Wi-Fi’, it can help improve patient safety and quality of care by isolating life-critical applications from other traffic. It can also increase clinician efficiency with reliable, pervasive Wi-Fi coverage for mission-critical applications and enabling physicians to use their mobile platform of their choice in the hospital, clinic or home.

It also means improved patient satisfaction, allowing patients to stay fully connected with family and friends while staying at the hospital or visiting as an outpatient.

The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one example of a hospital using the latest Wi-Fi technology. Formed in 2002 with the merger of Gloucestershire Royal and East Gloucestershire NHS Trusts, it is one of the largest hospital trusts in the country, providing care for more than 612,000 people.

A wireless network using 802.11ac technology now supports its new clinical SmartCare project and patient services, covering three primary areas of the Trust, including the Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals – with plans to roll it out across all of the sites in the future.

The network provides fast, seamless wireless for staff accessing the Trust’s new Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system, part of the SmartCare project, which will see the Trust moving away from paper notes towards a fully digital patient information system for safer, more efficient and effective patient care.

When fully deployed, the wireless network will allow Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to run different services on different wireless channels, allowing clinical services to be run separately from other patient services, and ensuring the security and integrity of confidential patient data is maintained.

This article was first published in The Information Daily, which is owned by Boilerhouse Media, and is associated with our other titles and platforms including PublicServiceDigitalMaking a Difference with Data, Health Innovation Monitor and Neighbourhood Planner.

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