Ruckus Wireless, a mobile networking company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., announced on Aug. 9 that 15 additional medical facilities have adopted its Smart WiFi technology as part of a massive move toward WiFi in the health care industry.
"We're seeing a big uptick in WiFi in hospitals," David Callisch, vice president of marketing for Ruckus, told eWEEK.
Ruckus' wireless push into hospitals comes as WiFi use has increased dramatically in the medical field. ABI Research recently reported that WiFi use in the health care industry has grown by more than 60 percent during the past year.
In addition, a Spyglass Consulting Group survey of physicians found 94 percent were using smartphones but 78 percent had difficulty connecting with colleagues reliably.
Callisch noted that hospitals need reliable service to avoid the loss of data in the middle of a patient's examination. Even the mobile beds can create obstacles for wireless connectivity, he said.
"Clinicians get frustrated when in the process of authenticating information, they lose information," said Rick Gentry, director of health care solutions for Ruckus. Hospital staff members often place tape on the floor to mark the locations of stronger wireless signals, he told eWEEK.
Ruckus' ZoneFlex Smart WLAN (wireless LAN) hardware uses its 802.11n Smart WiFi technology to automatically adapt to radio-frequency obstacles in real time.
The technology's BeamFlex functionality allows IT workers to steer clients' data dynamically to the client, Callisch said. In addition, client backlisting protects against DoS (denial of service) attacks, the company said.
With Smart WiFi technology, Ruckus wanted an infrastructure strong enough to handle electronic medical records and IP-based video applications while also supporting voice over WiFi and guest connectivity.
In Connecticut, Grove Hill Medical Center uses Ruckus' WiFi network to allow doctors to transmit electronic diagnoses, order lab tests and prescriptions, and enable nurses to upload patients' personal information.
Carl Labbadia, Grove Hill's IT director, said Smart WiFi technology allows radiologists to retrieve X-rays wirelessly on a mobile device without walking over to the machine.
In addition, a centralized wireless network like that offered by Ruckus eliminates IT callbacks for duplicate cases, Labbadia told eWEEK.
Doctors and nurses are connecting to the hospital's wireless network at the patient's bedside on iPads, laptops and smartphones, and nurses are using push-to-talk VOIP badges by companies such as Motorola and Vocera Communications.
Other players in the wireless health care space include Aerohive, Aruba and Cisco.
Gregg Malkary, founder and managing director of Spyglass Consulting Group, explained that efficient WiFi networks in hospitals will be able to improve clinical workflow by allowing nurses to stay at a patient's bedside longer while remaining connected to doctors and essential patient data.
"What's critical here is how these solutions can be used to improve access to patient information," Malkary told eWEEK. "WiFi is clearly broken in many health care organizations, so it's good that they're addressing these issues."