3 Options to Improve Your Healthcare Facility's Wireless Capacity

Stay Informed

There’s no doubt that the healthcare industry is embracing mobility. A recent survey  of healthcare companies found that 65 percent of those surveyed are investing in wireless infrastructure upgrades to support the growing number of monitors, machines and devices that rely on wireless connectivity. Only 40 percent of healthcare providers say they have adequate wireless connectivity in their facilities today.

For those facilities caught between needing more mobility now and the reality of budgets, construction schedules, and equipment upgrades, there are options.

The NBASE-T Option

Today’s networking and healthcare standards recommend Category 6a cables with 10G bandwidth for connecting wireless access points for new construction. However, 70 percent of the world’s installed cabling is only at 1G, making it obsolete for the latest access points. A new Ethernet technology, NBASE-T, is designed specifically for these types of brownfield applications. NBASE-T extends the life of installed Category 5e  and Category 6 cabling systems.

An NBASE-T capable switch works with existing Category 5e  and Category 6 cabling to provide 2.5G or 5G Ethernet speeds to wireless access points. With this technology, healthcare facilities can add bandwidth and improve the capacity of their wireless network by replacing the switch and access points without having to pull new cable. This solution extends the life of your existing infrastructure for a few years until you are ready to upgrade to a 10G solution.

Using a Cart

Laptops, patient monitors and other clinical devices can move around a hospital on any of a wide variety of carts in the marketplace. Many times, expensive equipment is wheeled from room to room to maximize the investment. This prevents the expense of outfitting every patient or exam room with the same equipment. This model also allows healthcare providers to rely on universal rooms serving multiple types of patients, with the proper equipment wheeled into the room as needed.

While it doesn’t offer the same level of convenience as wireless connectivity, a patch cable can connect equipment into a room’s RJ45 connection. Hard wiring has the added benefit of reducing security concerns that many providers – and patients – have with wireless connections. It also provides a level of reliability and bandwidth that wireless can’t always deliver.

In a wired application, an adapter like Panduit’s Break-Away Adapter connects between the equipment, patch cord and wall outlet. This limits damage to both the equipment and the infrastructure if the cart is accidentally wheeled away without disconnecting the patch cord from the outlet. The adapter releases when pulling force is applied, thus protecting the equipment and the outlet. An adapter like this also helps eliminate tripping hazards for patients. According to a report from the Joint Commission, the average cost of fall-related injuries sustained in a hospital is $14,000. It can also extend the patient’s stay by six or more days. In an industry pressed to reduce costs, the more falls that can be prevented, the better.

Capacity vs. Coverage

There are two approaches to installing or upgrading wireless technology within a facility. With 100 percent coverage, all areas of the healthcare facility have wireless access. With capacity, wireless availability extends beyond 100 percent to fully support the ever-increasing number of wireless devices competing for bandwidth on the wireless network.

You may find that some areas of your facility demand more capacity and warrant the immediate investment in a 10G infrastructure. At the same time, an upgrade plan can be developed to extend capacity in other areas where the added bandwidth isn’t as critical today.

Finding the Right Option

For the most cost-effective, highest-performing wireless network, the easy answer is a Category 6a copper cabling system. This system provides sufficient bandwidth to meet the needs of access points for the foreseeable future. However, when an immediate upgrade isn’t an option, look at one of these alternatives to buy some time while still improving wireless connectivity.

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Panduit's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.

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