How Wi-Fi Monitoring Can Save Lives

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How Wi-Fi Monitoring Can Save Lives

Two case studies prove that fast, reliable Wi-Fi is essential for exceptional patient care

Stand in the center of a crowded ER and it’s easy to understand how fast, reliable Wi-Fi saves lives:

Caregivers rush from room to room, sharing critical patient data electronically with other members of the care team. Patients check-in via an online portal, and hospital staff captures their confidential medical and insurance information on mobile devices. Wireless medical devices monitor patients and deliver treatments, sending instant alerts to caregivers. Nurses receive alerts and observe data captured each second on patients’ health at the main station – eliminating the manual documentation of vital signs that was once a significant drain on their time. Patients pass the time streaming their favorite shows on Netflix or communicating with friends and family electronically.

Now consider what happens if the Wi-Fi that supports all these devices fails.

At any given moment, hundreds of people are performing mission-critical tasks in a hospital – and they are relying on thousands of connected devices to do it. But unmonitored Wi-Fi networks aren’t equipped to handle the exploding number of devices demanding access at modern hospitals. Too often, they become so overwhelmed that they slow down or stop working altogether.

Every hour a Wi-Fi-network is down cost hospitals a minimum of $1 million. But more than money is on the line when disruptions of even a second have the potential to spark a life-threatening situation.

More than half of U.S. doctors say the health and safety of their patients have been jeopardized by a Wi-Fi outage impacting the Electronic Health Records (EHR) system. HealthData Management called unplanned downtime of the EHR a “significant” safety hazard, raising the likelihood of medication errors, a lack of access to images, and canceled procedures.

But trying to diagnose network issues that might be wired, wireless, or device-related without the right diagnostic tools is more than time-consuming and frustrating – it’s often pointless. So, many hospitals are turning to automated Wireless Network Monitoring to ensure that connectivity issues don’t stop caregivers from delivering great patient care – no matter where they and their patients roam in the facility.

7SIGNAL’s innovative solution troubleshoots problems in 30 seconds or less – significantly reducing the time and money hospitals spend on Wi-Fi issues. It stands out from other products on the market with the ability to measure the wireless network and device, offering both passive and active holistic views of the network.

7SIGNAL relies on a system of sensors, clients, apps, and agents that continuously measure performance from the hospital’s point of view, proactively reporting where Wi-Fi experiences are bad – and why – before helpdesk calls are ever made.

But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s take a look at two case studies that prove 7SIGNAL’s Wi-Fi quality management saves lives at hospitals:

Case Study 1: Operational effectiveness improves with high-performance Wi-Fi

Customer: Akron Children’s Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in Northeast Ohio.

Situation: In 2011, the hospital’s network included 900 WLAN access points (APs) and more than 800 Wi-Fi-connected clients. They ran critical applications like IV pumps, Workstations on Wheels, VoIP call badges, and access to EHR systems, as well as guest access. But the hospital’s WLAN was unreliable for hospital communications, and frequent degradation of quality and connectivity put patient safety at risk.

Challenge: The number of wireless devices used for medical and patient care was expected to triple within two years and continue growing rapidly in the future. Ensuring fast, reliable Wi-Fi coverage wasn’t just about convenience – it was about the uninterrupted delivery of critical services.

Solution: 7SIGNAL provided an enterprise-cloud solution that enabled the hospital to remain focused on patient outcomes, not connectivity. Caregivers and patients now roam on connected devices throughout the building while 7SIGNAL provides continuous Wi-Fi monitoring, alerting, and reporting in the background – solving issues before users ever realize there is a problem.

With this new capability, hospital Wi-Fi network performance was no longer a barrier to delivering exceptional patient care and could seamlessly support mission-critical applications and wireless medical devices.

Results: The system was initially deployed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Emergency Department, and one remote clinical facility. It’s impact:

  • Throughput increased by up to 110 percent
  • Packet loss reduced by 80 percent
  • Retransmissions reduced over 50 percent
  • End-to-end network delays reduced by 35 percent
  • The client’s ability to receive access point beacons increased by 20 percent

After the success of this initial phase, 7SIGNAL was installed in all critical clinical areas of the hospital and five remote medical facilities. The hospital’s Wi-Fi network was also upgraded and optimized to support new 802.11 standards. The impact:

  • Client throughput increased by more than 100 percent, and latency reduced by 35 percent
  • A major threat to the rollout of a new EHR system was detected, diagnosed, and averted
  • The hospital was able to properly assess the new records system’s capacity requirements, alongside other mission-critical apps

By significantly improving network performance and end-user experience, Wi-Fi experiences for patients and staff were successfully elevated at the hospital. Put simply, Akron Children’s Wi-Fi network no longer had the potential to significantly impact patient outcomes.

Case Study 2: Wi-Fi visibility leads to improved performance

Customer: Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers (CHWC) of Northwest Ohio

Situation: Traffic on the WLAN/Wi-Fi network had exploded since it was installed to primarily provide access to medical records for clinicians. CHWC was scrambling to find a proactive way to understand network performance issues and resolve them quickly before users complained.

Challenge: It’s notoriously difficult to successfully deploy high-performance WLAN in hospitals. Besides the exceptionally wide array of devices that use Wi-Fi to communicate, there are many different types of traffic that need support, from data to voice to telemetry. Users on the network vary as well, making it hard to anticipate needs. Hospitals are also constantly being repurposed to adopt new processes and workflows.

Making matters worse, users on CHWC’s network struggled to describe Wi-Fi issues beyond such vague terms as “my connection dropped,” giving the IT team little insight into problems. Many times, IT suspected an issue stemmed from a particular device instead of the Wi-Fi but had no way of confirming this hunch.

Solution: 7SIGNAL’s solution provided the visibility into the end-user experience that CHWC needed to manage its Wi-Fi experience proactively. After performing passive and active tests on the network, 7SIGNAL worked with CHWC to identify a series of steps to improve performance, including adjusting the channel plan and AP power levels. After each step, the team could see the impact of the changes and assess performance improvement.

7SIGNAL also enabled CHWC to assess the network by using key performance indicators (KPIs), such as throughput over time. Not only could they see the impact of performance on certain days of the week or hours of the day, but they could once again view the impact of the changes.

Results: CHWC now has the ability to monitor and analyze its WLAN on a continuous basis, resolving issues before helpdesk calls are made. Major impacts include:

  • Dramatically improved attach rates and throughputs for WLAN users
  • The worse Wi-Fi download and upload throughput was raised by more than 200 percent
  • The improved network can handle more applications and devices
  • Dramatically reduced retransmission rates of individual clients

Automatic performance reports are automatically emailed to the IT management team, and alarms generate automatic alerts if KPIs fall below acceptable thresholds. With these measures in place, CHWC’s IT team is confident that they can stay ahead of any issues that may arise as the environment changes, new applications are introduced, or new devices join the network.

The more time a hospital’s Wi-Fi is down, the more patient safety and care can suffer. At a 7SIGNAL Connected Hospital, medical errors are low, patient satisfaction is high, and a robust, reliable Wi-Fi network offers the continuous coverage needed to keep life-saving devices connected at all times.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices.

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