Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 18, 2016

Five Ways Wi-Fi Advances the Future of Healthcare

Remember a decade or two ago, when hospitals prohibited wireless devices because they might interfere with critical medical equipment? That’s hard to even imagine today, as Wi-Fi enables the delivery of healthcare in entirely new ways.

Perhaps that’s the reason some healthcare facilities are still a bit slow to adopt innovative IT capabilities. Hospitals continue to wrestle with budgets, data security, and compatibility with existing or legacy systems. However, the Wi-Fi Alliance expects the market for Wi-Fi-based healthcare to grow to $1.34 billion this year, moving us ever closer toward the next generation of healthcare: the connected hospital.

The connected hospital vision encompasses the idea of a fully integrated medical facility where wireless technology connects caregivers, patients and systems with accurate, real-time information, no matter where they may be at the time.  This connectivity may also extend beyond hospital walls to support remote medical care. Wi-Fi networking connects both standard hospital equipment and the more recent wearable technologies that enable hospital-quality care outside the facility. The connected hospital unites portable medical equipment and medical carts, wireless nurse call, tablets and phones, physician order entry (POE) devices, and location services, among other innovations. Wearables may include medical devices designed to monitor physical symptoms, location-based devices (to track the whereabouts of a patient or piece of equipment), and consumer-grade fitness solutions to help encourage and monitor wellness. Many of these devices connect with and automatically submit data to electronic medical records (EMR) systems.

Wi-Fi especially helps make this transformation a reality in five key areas:

1. Save Time, Save Lives

For high-risk patients in high-risk situations, every second counts. Wi-Fi provides the ability to connect life-critical medical devices – the most important breakthrough thus far in the medical environment. Hospitals take advantage of Wi-Fi-enabled devices including wireless EKGs, infusion pumps and blood pressure cuffs, for example, to provide accurate patient monitoring and support for basic procedures. Data from these sensors are automatically submitted to electronic health records (EHR) systems, which assures that patient information stays up to date. With real-time access to this information, clinicians can focus on the medical situation at hand rather than on taking patient vitals.

2. Remote Patient Monitoring

In and out of the hospital, a flow of accurate, real-time data ensures patients get the best care. Wireless devices let medical professionals monitor patients remotely without disrupting their routine or wasting time and money on appointments. Mobile medical devices can even travel with patients so they can be monitored from the comfort of their own home. Wi-Fi makes, programs such as “aging in place” initiatives, which allow the elderly or disabled to remain in familiar surroundings while still receiving the extra care and attention they need possible.

3. Empower the Patient

For many decades, the industry (and society in general)  operated on the assumption that every ill or frail person should be treated by being placed in a hospital or a nursing home, passively receiving care from medical staff. Due to rising healthcare costs, though, today the elderly more often remain in their own homes, the ill receive at-home care, and disabled individuals are empowered with new tools and technologies. Wi-Fi-based mobility gives these patients the chance to participate in their own care in and out of the hospital, which helps them monitor dosages and physical responses and engage them with updated information. They can “attend” doctor’s appointments via the Internet, order medications, and stay in touch with caregivers and family members.

4. Connected Healthcare Tools

With more medical equipment now coming online, doctors are sometimes able to even improve upon traditional treatments. This is because they can make more informed decisions with access to accurate and up-to-date patient data. By tapping into Wi-Fi-based sensors, they gain better visibility into symptoms, for example, the timing of pain or breathlessness, or moments of weakness or stress. They can also closely monitor responses to medications and dosages. Based on these insights, doctors use their time with patients more effectively, focusing attention on those most in need of help.

5. Enabling Wellness

Finally, the best cure, of course, keeps the patient from getting sick in the first place! Wi-Fi-based applications and trackers help patients monitor their exercise programs, participate in physical therapy, take medications properly and watch their diet. We expect this huge new part of the industry to grow: See Apple’s Care Kit as just one example of a wearable technology framework designed to help patients achieve and remain in good health.

Companies like Xirrus make this new, more flexible kind of healthcare possible with Wi-Fi technologies designed for the caregiving environment. Wi-Fi offers a much more cost-efficient option thanks to the scalability and security of today’s cloud services.  Already widely deployed for traditional healthcare networking, Wi-Fi creates a new approach to flexibility and efficiency of clinical services in healthcare.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
By Special Guest
Dirk Gates, Founder and Executive Chairman, Xirrus ,

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