Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 10, 2014

Bandwidth in Healthcare: Rising Data, Mobile Device Needs

The use of mobile devices and vast amounts of data is prevalent within nearly every industry these days, as organizations work to make the most of the latest and great technologies. Handheld endpoints and rising levels of client information are no doubt beneficial across these different sectors. This is especially true within the healthcare industry. Doctors, nurses and other practitioners are increasingly turning to mobile devices and big data to improve patient care as wearables and connected devices make their way into regular practices—creating incredible efficiencies, helping to scale services and improving patient care and outcomes. But, along with all of the positive implications, institutions have a need for more network bandwidth more than ever.

More mobile devices in hospitals, doctors’ offices

The mobile device trend, while first appearing in the consumer and business sectors, has since expanded into healthcare as well. In fact, a study done by Gartner shows healthcare is leading the adoption of the Internet of Things—connecting devices as well as people—which will grow to 26 billion units installed and connected by 2020.

According to Mobi Health News, a HIMSS survey found that 69 percent of healthcare providers leverage mobile devices as a means to view patient information. An additional 36 percent use handheld hardware endpoints to gather this information from patients at their bedsides. However, the use of mobile devices in healthcare doesn’t stop there.

The study also found that using smartphones and tablets to look up other health information and educate staff members was also popular among healthcare workers. Overall, nearly 65 percent use their mobile devices for looking up non-patient health data, and more than 48 percent leverage these endpoints for training purposes.

Many healthcare institutions are even providing these devices for their staff members. The study stated that 69 percent of clinicians received smartphones from their employers and 43 percent were provided with tablets. Additionally, 67 percent of survey respondents said their organization gave them pagers, and 56 percent were given cell phones.

Explosion of data

Mobile endpoints aren’t the only technological advancement seen in today’s healthcare organizations. A Ponemon Institute study found that in 2012, 30 percent of all the data existing in the world belonged to the healthcare industry, according to Building Better Healthcare. As the use of mobile devices and big data analytics has only increased since then, it’s a safe bet that this figure has risen in the last two years.

Due to the rising collection and use of data in the healthcare industry, just under half of Ponemon Institute survey respondents said they were looking to expand their storage systems by one terabyte or more within the year.

“This means healthcare organizations are increasingly reliant on digital storage and technology that ensures constant connectivity, accessibility of the information and their preparedness for a disaster,” Building Better Healthcare contributor Jim Gerrity wrote in Health networks - delivering the future of healthcare.

The bottom line: Boosted network bandwidth needs

As big data and mobile devices continue to permeate the healthcare industry, one thing becomes abundantly clear: institutions are utilizing more network bandwidth than ever. However, just as with any network, the amount of broadband resources in place isn’t unlimited. If too many devices connect to the network, or the storage system being used to house data grows too big, the performance of these components suffers.

“The requirements of the network are closely linked to what sort of data is being stored and what pressures are placed on the network by enabling the accessibility of that data. One of the major considerations for healthcare organizations is to adopt high bandwidth, low-latency networks to support the increase in digital health records across the healthcare stakeholder ecosystem”, Jim Gerrity explained. “To enable that accessibility and ensure data backup and protection, storage should be centralized, and bandwidth increased to do so. Bandwidth-heavy applications add further to network demands. A healthy network is one that can be effectively programmed to prioritise the availability and transfer of traffic. Real-time telesurgery video and data, for example, must take precedence over less critical, non-clinical institutional network traffic.”

Like many healthcare centers, Manchester Health Care Center has an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system that serves a collaborative community of health care centers in New Hampshire. All of their patient charts, scheduling and billing are electronically hosted in a facility about 50 miles away. They had WAN connectivity issues and as a result they were struggling with an underperforming ISP and experienced continuous outages and slow connectivity-- which lead to frustrated doctors and nurses, and slower, less efficient care. By implementing a PowerLink solution, they dramatically improved uptime and have eliminated all bandwidth issues.

Like Manchester Healthcare, administrators must ensure that there is not only enough network bandwidth available to support current usage levels, but that resources are in place for the near future as well.

Decision-makers in the healthcare industry should take an in-depth look at their network and not only work to increase bandwidth where necessary, but have several diverse communication links to ensure the best performing—always performing—network. Institution leaders also need to be prepared for the worst, as Gerrity pointed out. A WAN network can provide critical connectivity backup, ensuring that if one connection goes down, there is another ready and waiting to handle user traffic. It’s not just about having a standby backup link, it’s hard working links, each sharing the traffic load. And, in case of a disaster, like a backhoe cutting a line or a provider technical failure, priority traffic isn’t impacted. It keeps on flowing through the good links. The bottom line? In today’s world, it’s not good enough to just have multiple links; organizations must optimize and take on the “never down” mentality.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
By TMCnet Special Guest
Tina Plant, Customer Experience, Ecessa ,

FREE eNewsletter

Click here to receive your targeted Healthcare Technology Community eNewsletter.
[Subscribe Now]