By Christian Gilby
There are countless scenarios in which Wi-Fi has let users down at the most inconvenient times. Whether it’s something small and personal like losing connection at a coffee shop before sending a document by an important deadline, or a major outage at the office that shuts down productivity for a day, it’s a universal problem with real consequences.
But, when it comes to a healthcare environment, networks are increasingly used to support a variety of medical devices, operating systems and mobile applications. Mission-critical takes on new meaning when wireless is supporting medical equipment and real-time data being used by doctors in treatment. Unreliable Wi-Fi in these scenarios is not only frustrating but can cause life-threatening consequences. In addition to dependable Wi-Fi, there are a number of exciting networking technology advancements that are improving, and even transforming the modern patient experience.
There are several steps that healthcare providers are taking and technologies that they are investing in to support IT modernization efforts. One key technology is AI-driven networking that makes Wi-Fi predictable, reliable and measurable. The artificial intelligence (AI) aspect of the network provides healthcare IT teams with visibility and understanding into how its staff, visitors and patients are experiencing the network. AI also gives helpdesk staff the ability to leverage data science tools to rapidly identify any Wi-Fi issues and their root causes as they happen. As a proactive measure, AI can also be leveraged to detect anomalies and either automate the resolution or alert IT of the issue before users even report a problem with the network. These AI-focused solutions allow healthcare IT workers to focus strategic projects to support clinical operations and patient care, rather than troubleshooting.
In addition to the direct benefits of AI-driven networks for healthcare staff, modernizing Wi-Fi also creates a more connected experience for patients. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s becoming more important than ever for people to stay connected. Patients and their guests expect quick access to the news, social media and video streaming platforms. Easy access to apps such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and Facebook can be essential for patients to keep in touch with loved ones, ensuring that they can consume and share information no matter where they are. Unreliable Wi-Fi can impact patient satisfaction scores and result in an overall negative experience for patients, guests, family and friends.
Another benefit of an AI-driven wireless network that fuses together Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE and IoT technologies is the ability to boost user experience with indoor location services and enhancing the patient, visitor and caregiver mobile applications. This makes it possible to provide anyone who has a Bluetooth-enabled device with wayfinding services, which can be helpful in many ways – whether it’s helping healthcare workers quickly find patients who need attention, or making it possible to greet patients as soon as they walk into a hospital and provide turn-by-turn navigation to their destination. It also helps hospitals to quickly locate key assets such as medical devices, ventilators, wheelchairs or even medicine, which has been a challenge historically with shift-based work.
New applications are now possible with this integration of Bluetooth, IoT and Wi-Fi. Orlando VA Medical Center, for example, worked with Mist Systems to integrate IoT door locks with Bluetooth LE-enabled badges and tags to prevent unaccompanied patient elopement from their mental health facility. This is one new, significant way that companies can help improve the patient experience for different subsets of patients using AI-driven networks.
With the increased productivity and innovative new features that AI-driven WLAN can bring into an organization, healthcare providers often take into consideration whether the new technology creates new challenges to security. However, if properly deployed, WLAN infrastructure can benefit the organization without sacrificing security standards. Security management and threat visibility solutions are available to providers to improve security across the network and can make WLANs just as secured as wired networks.
By adopting next-generation infrastructure, healthcare organizations can provide patients and staff with advanced connectivity and unique experiences that are beneficial to all parties. Reliable Wi-Fi has become an expectation for patients and guests. It’s technology advancements such as the AI-driven WLAN that healthcare organizations are depending on to truly transform the modern patient experience and take connected healthcare to the next level.
Christian Gilby is director of product marketing at Mist Systems, a Juniper Networks company.