Preparing Hospitals for the Future of Connectivity

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Guest Blogger: Francois Durand, Product Application Engineer, Network Connectivity

Long gone are the days where you’ll find a nurse at the end of your hospital bed noisily flipping through a chart or tapping a pen on a clipboard. Today’s nurses are much more likely to track patients and their progress by scrolling through screens on a tablet or mobile device.

We live in a world of Uber, Amazon and Airbnb and as a result, patients, staff and visitors all now expect immediate access to information during their hospital visits. With the dramatic increase in digital health records, digital imaging, and hospitals now becoming more accepting of telemedicine, reliable and high-capacity network connectivity is essential to meet demands of various stakeholders in the new digital hospital. Without it, staff productivity slows, care is delayed, visitors become annoyed and patients feel ignored.

As hospitals’ reliance on internet technologies expands, so does the need for better and faster network connectivity solutions. Not only do patients and guests expect to log into Facebook and Netflix during their hospital stay, but doctors and nurses are now almost fully reliant on the internet to access health records, input data into pharmacy systems, obtain digital images from radiology, and communicate with other health professionals. This means that healthcare facilities need to take a close look at their network capabilities to make sure they’re able to accommodate new digital technologies and meet rising patient and staff expectations.

These new technologies and applications inevitably lead to more data – data that needs to be stored, processed, and transmitted through a strong, reliable network. In fact, experts predict that in North America alone, healthcare data will reach 35 zettabytes by 2020, a 44-fold increase from 2009. With 2020 only four years away, health facilities need to act now. And a key strategy will be developing a network infrastructure and future-ready cabling that can support the deluge of data to come.

Hospital Connectivity Schneider Electric

So what exactly does that look like? Let’s start with the basics. A hospital’s network infrastructure is its web of interconnected computer and information technology (IT) systems. The network enables communication between clinicians and patients, across departments, as well as across larger health information networks. Though hospitals have been trying to adopt new technologies, they don’t always have the infrastructure in place to support these upgrades. Hospitals that improve their network infrastructure can expect better operational efficiency, patient safety, and patient satisfaction.

Today, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) recommends that at a minimum, healthcare facilities adopt category 6 cables, which can transmit up to one gigabit per second. But this speed isn’t enough to meet hospitals’ heavy reliance on internet-based technologies. This insufficiency is dangerous to the hospital’s reputation, but more importantly can be potentially dangerous to patients’ well-being. Baseline networks can create a lag that leads to a gap in staff communication, which can lead to delays in treatment. In a critical situation, this could have catastrophic consequences.

Slow connectivity also comes with substantial business risks. An inability to communicate can frustrate staff, leading to low employee satisfaction, high turnover and decreased efficiency among employees. Upgrading to higher network capabilities is essential for hospitals to meet modern standards of patient care – and benefits bottom-line business results.

In our next two blogs, we’ll discuss some specific recommendations for upgrading network connectivity and provide guidance on how hospitals should prepare. For a more in-depth look at the future of connectivity in hospitals, check out our white paper. Or, for more information, contact Francois Durand.

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