COVID’s Call to Action
The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused many healthcare organizations to re-think the performance and capabilities of their legacy wireless infrastructure networks. Driven primarily by the need to rapidly re-purpose existing care operations and an urgency to implement makeshift facilities in order to support in-patient as well as campus field venues, the limitations of a strategy predicated on reliance of existing networks became very apparent to many hospital IT organizations during this past year. Healthcare organizations are now recognizing that new wireless networking investments are required to build forward-looking pathways essential to supporting agile service methods.
Digital Healthcare Comes of Age
Healthcare providers and big-box retailers are aggressively pursuing digital health solutions in order to leverage its inherent benefits in promoting operational efficiencies, improving clinical effectiveness, and creating better patient and clinician experiences. As other industries have already discovered, such digital transformation means reliance on a multi-channel wireless networking approach that considers different use cases, a variety of end-point devices, integration, and crucially, network integrity, particularly with respect to privacy and security. More specifically, the digital health marketplace is bursting forth with service capabilities for all facets of health and wellness operations, and most analysts are predicting that by 2030, a large portion of healthcare operations will be virtualized, given increasing adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms that are replacing traditional care pathways. Examples include “digital house” stacks of applications, robotic process automation, and location based services (LBS), the latter including wayfinding, self-rooming, asset management, and “persona” identification. Without exception, robust wireless networking capabilities is essential to create the actionable, pervasive, and intelligently automated environments that the healthcare industry envisions.
Constructing Hospital Grade Connectivity – Creating a New Standard
For the reasons above, achieving hospital grade connectivity is of paramount importance to healthcare executives considering future investments in care services. Modernizing in-patient rooms and creating new community-minded clinics, with services structured in holistic health and wellness mandates such business conversations in order to ensure that the healthcare enterprise is able to meet future consumer demands as well as support new biomedical offerings. For example, self-service modalities such as non-contact vitals collection, automated patient registration, and scheduling fulfillment rely on having a trusted, high-availability, high-reliability environment to bring patients and care teams together in a transparent and orchestrated manner. Technically, this means identifying the right set of network archetypes to enable the vision above, which in turn means identifying and implementing a standard for networking in much the same way that the device and electrical manufacturing industry has done as it relates to hospital grade devices and appliances.
A Multi-Channel Approach
Healthcare enterprises will continue to rely extensively on their investment in private wireless networks such as WiFi and its subsequent variants such as WiFi-6: the former is proven, and its adaptability to be secured for private and public networking in a campus environment make it a compelling business and technical choice. That said, growth opportunities abound in the application of purpose-built networks such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for special operations such as contact trace, ultra wideband wireless for extremely accurate positioning, near field technologies for presence detection, GHz wave technologies for activity monitoring (sometimes called ‘room’ radar), and 5G and 6G offerings from wireless operators. What this means is two-fold: first, defining standard offerings in wireless networking that are application-specific as well as facility centric, and second, creating an orchestration layer to identify and manage system performance on a real-time basis.
Partnering with Wireless Services Providers
Given the fast pace of technological change in the wireless industry coupled with the evolution of end-point devices and new application constructs, healthcare enterprises are well advised to partner with leading wireless industry service providers in order to create a trusted and valued chain of support to help guide and fashion a strategy of networking excellence. In this way, the healthcare enterprise will make the right set of business decisions to align with its goals and objectives around current and future state care operations.