you know that a large healthcare system
likely has the highest concentration of
wireless spectrum usage
in one area, second only to naval vessels? That’s my
opinion, at least, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet. This spectrum supports not
only the regular wireless devices
like mobile phones, public safety
walkie-talkies, and WiFi access points, but also wireless medical devices
as patient monitoring systems and RF scalpels. In addition, there are also
devices like MRI, x-ray and CAT scan machines that can cause interference
not properly installed and maintained. All of this wireless traffic occurs
inside hospital buildings where patient care and safety
is of utmost concern.
Unfortunately, the function responsible for managing all this wireless traffic
is not consistent
across the industry, with duties being assigned to the CIO,
Nursing, Biomedical Engineering and other departments.
A recent article in 24x7 Magazine talks about the risks and rewards inherent in
supporting wireless in healthcare. Some of the top concerns are the security of
patient information in a wireless environment and the safety of patients when
hospitals deploy critical health services on wireless networks. An industry
consultant states, “You have to have the confidence that your network is up all
the time and your data is going to get there.” I absolutely agree. And there are a few tools hospitals can
utilize to help ensure that happens.
First, you have to know what wireless devices exist in the
hospital and what frequency bands they operate in. Doing a spectrum sweep is a
good start. Then you need to record all of that and keep track of these devices
in a database. A device database will help you spot potential sources of
wireless interference that can disrupt the reliability of the network. Perhaps
the most comprehensive, ideal solution is deploying dedicated in-building wireless network infrastructure that can support licensed and
unlicensed wireless traffic. Such in-building systems, when used in conjunction
with a device database, will help ensure no serious network outages occur.
Check out the 24x7 article if you want to get up-to-speed on the state of wireless in
healthcare. As the article rightly notes, wireless services and devices are
becoming much more common throughout healthcare systems. As is the case with
most things, the best time to prepare for network problems is before they
Do you have experience with wireless in healthcare settings?
What’s your experience? Leave a comment if you’d like to share.