March 20, 2014

Hospital Wi-Fi No Longer A Nice To Have

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It’s been a little over 10 years since I first installed my first access point in a hospital.  I’m proud to say that overall we had a pretty accurate vision that WiFi was going to become a key component of a hospital’s infrastructure.   However, we just had no idea how important wireless access would become.  Best effort support and rudimentary Windows CE tablets have given way to mission critical telemetry and communications systems. BYOD, and expectations for patient access that still can boggle the mind and can overwhelm an improperly designed infrastructure.

At HIMSS14 during a short break from the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion where Extreme Networks was the wired and wireless network provider I had opportunity to talk with Don Fluckinger news director for SearchHealthIT.com and my good friend and coauthor of WiFi Enabled Healthcare Doug McDonald Wireless Network Manager at Henry Ford Health System about how dependent on WiFi health IT has become.

I won’t spoil Don’s interview with Doug but to give you a sense of the scope and importance of a WLAN infrastructure in healthcare just take a look at some of these stats from Henry Ford Health System.

  • Wireless clients now outnumber wired.
  • Over 4400 access points.
  • 12K+ users per day.
  • 5K+ guest users per day (Yes your hospital has become an ISP)
  • 100% client growth year over year for the last 7 years.

You can listen to the interview here:

Back to our early predictions for WiFi in healthcare.

  • We expected most devices to still be wired.
  • PDAs (Remember those?) would never have a decent user interface or capabilities that could be used to access an EMR, telemetry data, let alone Voice and Video capabilities.
  • Guest Access would be for a small number of users (mostly contractors) that brought in laptops.

10 years and so much has changed yet this is still just the beginning of what we can expect to see with wireless technologies in healthcare.  mHealth wearables, medical device compliance, big data analytics, and a growing reliance on mobile application delivery are just a few of the emerging trends that will take WiFi in healthcare to its next level.  Sounds like a good idea for a book. 😉

Doug McDonald and I will be at Interop Las Vegas the week of March 31st speaking on a number of mobility topics in Health IT.  If you are at the show please stop on by booth 1351 and ask to speak with us, we welcome the conversation.

And remember, friends don’t let friends use WEP…

About The Contributor:
Bob ZemkeDirector of Healthcare Solutions

Bob Zemke is the Director of Healthcare Solutions and is responsible for the healthcare market strategy at Extreme Networks. An IT professional with a broad span of experience in healthcare, Bob has over 14 years working both within hospital IT and as a consultant in next generation network design, deployment and management. Bob has been featured in publications such as HealthCare Design Magazine, Mobile Wireless Magazine, and Healthcare Executive Exchange. He is coauthor of a book entitled "WiFi Enabled Healthcare" that is available on Amazon.com. Bob frequently participates industry-specific events including HIMSS, Enterprise Connect, Interop and is active in the AAMI, CWNP, IEEE, and HIMSS organizations . Bob holds an BA degree in Telecommunications Management from Western Michigan University and his MS in Telecommunications and Network Management from Syracuse University's iSchool.

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