A Medical Device Explosion is Coming – Is Your Hospital Ready?

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A Medical Device Explosion is Coming – Is Your Hospital Ready?

7SIGNAL prevents hospital Wi-Fi networks from becoming health hazards

Fast, reliable access to information is key to improving productivity and efficiency in a hospital – and in a setting where people’s health is on the line, it can literally be a matter of life or death.

The number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices in hospitals is exploding: HIT Infrastructure estimates that a large hospital now relies on about 85,000 connected devices, in addition to its standard computer system. Mobile devices, Workstations on Wheels (WoWs), Internet of Things (IoT) tools, and other connected medical devices are making game-changing improvements to the way hospitals deliver care to their patients, how patients participate in their own care, and how doctors and other caregivers are doing their jobs.

But the staggering number of devices demanding access to wireless networks can put a massive strain on legacy systems, prompting outages, faulty connections, equipment malfunctions, or lost messages. More than 50 percent of hospitals spend up to 500 hours per year on Wi-Fi maintenance – an unacceptable statistic, as reliance on connected devices, directly links the health of the hospital’s network to the health of its patients.

It has never been more important for hospitals to ensure that their infrastructure remains up and running so patient care is unaffected – and that their networks are scalable and reliable enough to manage the fast-growing wireless demands of the future.

7SIGNAL bridges this gap in Wi-Fi performance management, giving hospitals the ability to troubleshoot and resolve Wi-Fi issues in 30 seconds or less, so caregivers can remain focused on what’s mission-critical: patient outcomes.

Connected hospitals are the new reality

Wireless medical devices are nothing new, but cutting-edge healthcare providers are realizing the benefits of linking them together to create integrated environments. What was once a futuristic vision of a completely-connected hospital is happening now as wireless technology provides accurate and timely monitoring no matter where caregivers and patients roam throughout the facility.

This new generation of Wi-Fi-enabled medical devices significantly boosts hospital performance in terms of the accuracy of data, patient safety, and mobility. This leads to better patient outcomes and increases patient satisfaction. And patient satisfaction is in turn often tied to the funding that shores up budgets.

This digital connectivity also enables caregivers to handle higher volumes of patients – a critical improvement as hospitals faced with staff shortages struggle to meet increased demand from an aging population. Incredible efficiencies are created when caregivers no longer have to manually transport files, waste precious time on inputting patient data that can now be instantly transmitted to Electronic Health Records (EHR) or wander the hospital searching for medical equipment or information.

A National Center for Biotechnology Information study showed that hospital-wide mortality rates dropped by 20 percent at a children’s hospital that implemented a Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) system. This change drastically reduced errors related to poor handwriting and transcription of orders.

The healthcare industry is also fast becoming one of the biggest users of the Internet of Things (IoT), with 40 percent of these devices projected to be health-related within two years. Medical IoT devices boost a hospital’s efficiency and quality of care by providing anytime, anywhere access to real-time patient data and laboratory results. But since most of them can’t be turned off, their constant demand for bandwidth can overwhelm legacy wireless networks.

Overwhelmed networks impact patient care

The global wireless health market is projected to increase from $39 billion in 2015 to $110 billion by 2020. But the pricey investments hospitals are making in these technologies is wasted without the right infrastructure in place to let them operate reliably at all times.

Consider this case in point: 1,000 wireless access points and more than 800 wireless client device connections challenged the legacy network at Akron Children’s Hospital, Ohio’s largest pediatric hospital. They run mission-critical equipment like IV pumps and WoWs. The number of Wi-Fi devices the hospital used for patient care purposes was also expected to triple within four years – and continue to grow rapidly into the future.

The hospital partnered with 7SIGNAL to ensure that an overwhelmed Wi-Fi network didn’t deter its caregivers from delivering exceptional patient care. The carefully designed solution was focused around enhancing Wi-Fi network performance and end user experience.

The three departments that were part of the initial optimization phase reported throughput increased by up to 110 percent, packet losses reduced by 80 percent, and retransmission reduced by more than 50 percent, among other remarkable improvements.

4 major impacts of unreliable Wi-Fi

There’s no denying that frequent, reliable communication is critical to effective patient care within hospitals and that its success relies heavily on a robust, secure wireless network. But with massive amounts of data clogging hospital Wi-Fi and radio-frequency interference rampant throughout buildings, facilitating this communication is almost always easier said than done.

Reliable Wi-Fi isn’t just about convenience – it also enables delivery of vital services. A disruption of even a tenth of a second can cause a data transmission to fail that could lead to a life-threatening situation.

There are four major potential impacts if Wi-Fi slows down or stops working in a healthcare setting:

  • For administrative staff, Wi-Fi affects business operations and hampers the staff’s ability to communicate.
  • From a business perspective, administrative staff, physicians, and other caregivers can’t communicate patient information.
  • From a treatment perspective, patient care may be delayed and patient safety is at risk. Many life-saving devices are now dependent on continuous coverage and the ability to send instant alerts to caregivers.
  • From a customer service perspective, patient satisfaction suffers if they cannot use Wi-Fi to communicate with family or friends or to entertain themselves while waiting for care. A hospital’s ability to capitalize on market share and Medicare reimbursements are directly linked to the satisfaction of its patients. In fact, the federal government – and some private insurers – consider results from mandated patient satisfaction surveys when setting pay levels for hospitals.

Free to focus on what matters most

Quickly resolving Wi-Fi challenges can save lives. By automating Wi-Fi performance management, 7SIGNAL reduces the amount of time and money hospitals spend on wireless issues by resolving problems that occur before helpdesk calls are ever made.

Caregivers and patients can roam confidently throughout the hospital while 7SIGNAL continually analyzes what’s occurring between medical devices and access points. Click here to learn more about how 7SIGNAL keeps wireless devices running smoothly in a hospital at all times.

Hospitals are investing millions in wireless technology that have the potential to set a new standard for patient care. But if legacy Wi-Fi networks are unable to handle the fast-growing number of connected devices, patient health and safety are at risk. 7SIGNAL makes it effortless for hospitals to keep their networks connected at all times, enabling caregivers to remain focused on what’s important: patient outcomes, not connectivity.

7SIGNAL offers Wi-Fi performance management solutions that ensure connectivity issues don’t prevent hospitals from delivering exceptional patient care. Contact us to learn about becoming a 7SIGNAL Connected Hospital.

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