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Wi-Fi technology in the healthcare industry

Editor's note: In this, the first video in our three-part series on Wi-Fi in healthcare, retail and education, ZK Research analyst Zeus Kerravala focuses on the issues related to wireless networks in the healthcare industry. See, too, his videos that explore the Wi-Fi issues facing the retail industry and the education industry. 

The demand for Wi-Fi technology is exploding as doctors, nurses and other medical professionals use Wi-Fi-enabled devices, ranging from smartphones to patient monitors, in their daily responsibilities. Wi-Fi access helps medical professionals access real-time information and patient records.

"Wi-Fi is the foundation for digital transformation in the healthcare industry," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. But Wi-Fi technology in healthcare must be transformed to enable widespread adoption.

The healthcare industry has lagged behind other industries when it comes to transitioning to Wi-Fi-enabled business processes. This is primarily due to security concerns around privacy and patient data, Kerravala said.

But security is just one of the challenges facing healthcare. The number of Wi-Fi users is a major challenge as it's not just medical professionals who use a wireless network. Medical facilities, especially large hospitals, can see thousands of patients, visitors and others who are also jumping onto Wi-Fi networks on their smartphones and tablets. If a network is not prepared for a high density of devices, it can lead to unpredictable performance, Kerravala said.

A wireless network should offer strong, consistent access with fewer access points to prevent interference patterns that not only disrupt user experience, but can impact the performance of important medical devices, he said.

Kerravala said a wireless network should also support a wide range of applications that medical professionals frequently use, like voice, video and electronic medical records, to keep workflows consistent without degrading performance for everything else on the network.

Watch this video to learn about the other Wi-Fi technology challenges facing the healthcare industry and the requirements a wireless network must meet.

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While this is outside my field, I do know that the healthcare industry has been woefully behind the times in utilizing any part of technology. Medical staffs are annoyed at the glacial progress and patients are forced to fight through inadequate and mismatched records. Even the few facilities that have embraced technology (I'm thinking The Mayo Clinic) still struggle with poor implementation.
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I see some updates at my local hospital. Nurses now have portable systems for checking patient info and care records as they go from room to room. This helps them spend more time with patients by not having to keep going back to the records. The risk comes from the wi-fi. With so many ways to capture the data you need a very secure network to keep with the HIPPA laws.  If patient data gets breached, I can see problems down the road. Outside sources changing patient meds or other nasty things.
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