Network infrastructure, wireless networking not at the forefront
But they form the critical foundation working behind the scenes
HALF of the world’s mobile users are in Asia Pacific, with 1.7 billion unique mobile subscribers in the region at the end of 2013 out of the 3.4 billion global subscriber base.
The number of Asia Pacific subscribers is expected to grow by 5.5% a year (compound annual growth rate until 2020, reaching 2.4 billion, according to the GSM Association.
Mobility is also being greatly adopted in healthcare. According to Frost & Sullivan, it has been fuelled by the unprecedented spread of mobile technologies, as well as advancements in their innovative application to address health priorities.
It is largely supported by mobile devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other wireless devices.
More and more mobile solutions are being introduced and implemented in hospitals to enable higher quality patient care, increased patient satisfaction and increased clinician satisfaction.
That being said, the increased use of mobile devices in the hospital, whether by medical staff, patients or guests, requires high-performance network infrastructure that is able to guarantee seamless connectivity and security at the same time.
There is need for an agile network backbone to ride the mobility wave in healthcare and provide better management and availability of critical applications within the network.
Besides patients and guests tapping onto the hospital networks, doctors and other clinical staff at hospitals are also increasingly bringing in mobile devices to the workplace, seeking to use them at point of care.
Additionally, virtualised desktop solutions are fast becoming the norm with clinical access to mobile systems such as electronic medical records (EMRs).
This is the standard of services that have come to be expected from all hospitals. But while they allow for greater satisfaction for everyone in the hospital, a balance between guest and clinical operations usage within the network needs to be ensured, resulting in the need for an adapted network infrastructure that can support all these ongoing processes simultaneously.
The influx of end-user devices accessing the hospital network comes along with the demand for consistent, reliable and continuously available connectivity, especially on the hospital wireless local area network (WLAN).
The wireless networks within any hospital or healthcare institution, therefore, need to be properly fortified for any amount of traffic, as it caters to not only the staff within the hospital or clinic, but to patients and guests’ mobile usage as well.
Network infrastructure, wireless networking, wired switches may not seem to be topics at the forefront of patient care initiatives.
In truth however, they form the critical foundation working behind the scenes to support the BYOD (bring your own device) trend, which is increasingly leveraging hospital networks such as WiFi, and enhanced networking capabilities around virtualisation support and expanded WLANs are the foundation for enabling virtualised systems and solutions within hospitals.
The use of mobile devices brings security challenges along with the necessity to enable seamless access for both doctors and patients.
The WLAN in hospitals is getting saturated with data and devices as clinicians use laptops and tablets to view and enter patient data.
Yet, unrestricted usage could jeopardise patient privacy as well as place an unacceptable burden on the network and IT resources.
As more life-saving applications are added to the network along with the influx of high bandwidth consumption from mobile users accessing a mix of critical and non-critical applications, having the ability to analyse the network, understand the usage and troubleshooting issues before clinicians and patient lives are impacted becomes critical.
Vision on front; focus on back-end
There is a clear need to modernise the network landscape and provide network intelligence while implementing wireless technologies as hospitals move towards advanced healthcare delivery.
The solution should integrate with current systems to maximise current IT resources, and provide better visibility of existing IT systems both from a wired, wireless and application usage level.
In order to help support these advancements in the healthcare industry, scalable, secure, intelligent and reliable wired and wireless LAN solutions can be deployed.
Investing in new technologies, such as an interdisciplinary WLAN, has prevailing advantages which make the upgrade worthwhile. The improvements to healthcare organisations in terms of IT agility, flexibility, responsiveness and control will not only enhance the well-being of both patients and healthcare personnel, but also bring numerous economic advantages.
A sturdy, intelligent and scalable network foundation can better support the roll out of mobility solutions, which in turn will offer more efficient and productive workflows, and essentially improve the service delivery of the healthcare industry tremendously.
Gary Newbold is the vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Extreme Networks.
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