Rapidly maturing wireless infrastructure and devices are helping medical professionals spend more time with patients, and less time on paperwork.
In fact, the advantages of a running a wire-free operating theatre or intensive care ward are now so compelling that new hospital and allied healthcare facilities are being designed to facilitate the adoption of mobile medical technologies.
In Western Australia the government is spending $5 billion to upgrade and build new facilities, with a view to delivering state-of-the-art healthcare services. In NSW, the planned 423-bed Northern Beaches hospital in Sydney has been billed as a digital healthcare facility while the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s planned Allied Health facility will similarly feature extensive use of wireless connectivity.
According to Mark Winter, Asia Pacific Managing Director at communications integrator in Technology, rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets and the development of medical devices that support Wi-Fi is driving the trend.
“As soon as people realise there is Wi-Fi available in the hospital setting they all want to get access,” says Winter. “The real change now is that medical devices are also integrating Wi-Fi connectivity into their design so that the design of hospital Wi-Fi needs to respond to this change.”
Designing the hospitals of the future
Although Wi-Fi has been available in many hospitals and medical facilities for at least a decade, it’s only in recent times that Wi-Fi protocols have made it possible to reliably provide wide coverage and transmit larger files.
Medical devices increasingly rely on built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and as such hospital wireless networks are evolving to meet their needs.
Patients benefit from wireless systems
According to Robert Harkness, wireless solutions business manager at technology integrator Lan1, wireless technology helps healthcare managers target resources where they’re needed: with the patient.
“The number of healthcare devices that can benefit from good Wi-Fi is constantly increasing,” says Mr Harkness. “Features like location based services to track both devices and people within the hospital precinct are saving staff time so long as they are underpinned by reliable networks.”
Nonetheless, well-designed hospital Wi-Fi systems have been able to help dramatically reduce the amount of time staff need to spend plugging in and unplugging equipment, filling in paperwork, and tracking resources.
“What we’re doing now is literally cutting the cables, so that when a patent needs to go from one ward to another all you need to do is push the bed,” Mr Winter said. “We’re seeing the old environment of paper work and cables disappearing, and that means a lot more time for patient care.”
- Wi-Fi technology has matured to the point where it can be relied upon in a hospital setting.
- Wireless medical devices are increasingly using Wi-Fi rather than proprietary communications protocols.
- Wi-Fi can be properly managed to ensure signals are prioritised according to the device from which they come.
- Wi-Fi networks have already dramatically reduced the level of clutter in confined spaces such as operating theaters and intensive care wards.
- Wi-Fi connectivity reduces the time staff spend on non-patient related activities such as administration and asset management.