HIMSS 2014 – Big on Wireless

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This year’s show was huge. According to the events organizers, there were 1,200 exhibitors and 38,000 healthcare professionals in attendance and there were more nurses, physicians, IT staff and executives in attendance at this year’s HIMSS than ever before.

New Wi-Fi enabled devices and applications at HIMSS14

Wi-Fi helps disabled people walk

Wi-Fi helps disabled people walk

One of the most interesting Wi-Fi capable devices at this year’s HIMSS was a Wi-Fi enabled bionic exoskeleton. The Ekso Bionics unit (pictured above) was featured in the Lockheed Martin booth. This device is for patients with lower extremity paralysis or weakness. It enables patients to stand, walk and it can assist them with their rehabilitation. The unit is equipped with a single Wi-Fi radio. The radio supports two data streams currently. One stream allows engineers to see real-time telemetry data to determine how the unit is performing. The other stream is for the unit’s user, where information such as steps taken, distance traveled, etc., are sent over the air to an application that the user can access later.

Connecting Right People to the Right Information in the Right Time

Some of the main areas of focus this year were patient safety, care quality, patient engagement, access to quality care and affordability, but the overarching main theme of the show seemed to be along the lines of enabling the right people to get access to the right information at the right time.

Of special note was the Interoperability Showcase with its one acre of space. This is where over 100 diverse systems demonstrated interoperability for typical patient workflows under different healthcare settings. One of the main objectives of the Interoperability Showcase is to improve overall patient care. This area of the show garnered a lot of attention and interest, and it is understandable that it would as ultimately the quality of care delivered is very much contingent of how well all of the various devices and applications work together. Hopefully the Interop Showcase will be part of future HIMSS conferences.

WLAN: a necessity in today’s healthcare delivery

HIMSS14 saw all of the enterprise class WLAN equipment manufactures in attendance. And while there have not been any major publicized security breaches in healthcare lately like there have been in retail, Wi-Fi equipment companies were talking about security and protecting patient records again at this year’s show. Enabling BYOD is still front and center. Doctors and other care providers apparently really like using their tablets… So onboarding and mobile device management (MDM) solutions were the topics of many conversions between WLAN equipment manufactures and HIMSS14 attendees.

Another topic of discussion at WLAN booths was real-time location systems (RTLS) enhancements. A couple of WLAN solution providers were discussing 11ac’s impact on high definition video conferencing and moving large diagnostic images around via Wi-Fi. Another popular topic was high availability and uninterrupted care.

Were HIMSS attendees excited about catching 11ac Wave 1?

A number of IT executives in attendance stated that they are looking forward to 11ac solving density and capacity challenges; however, they will likely need to be a bit patient as there were more execs looking forward to 11ac than there were 11ac capable client devices at the show.

While there may have been 11ac capable devices at the show there were not easy to find. Checking in with manufacturers of all types of Wi-Fi enabled medical and communication devices, such as makers of infusion pumps, patient monitoring devices, RTLS systems, voice handsets and video conferencing systems, etc. did not uncover a single 11ac capable device. One vendor of workstations on wheels (WOW), equipped with a high definition video conferencing system, stated that they are in the process of retrofitting their WOW systems with 11ac radios. Their stated main reason for doing so is for scalability as they have discovered that HD video conferencing can easily overwhelm 11n, even at relatively low client densities. (But that is a subject for another blog…)

For more healthcare topics, please see our earlier posts:

Robert Ferruolo

Robert Ferruolo is a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer at AirTight Networks. He authors network design guides and application notes, supports proof of concept tests and delivers partner training. Robert has over 20 years of experience in the networking industry, with over 8 years of championing all things related to improving Wi-Fi performance.

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