WiFi Use Grows Strongly in Health Care Industry: Report

ABI Research has released a report showing 60 percent growth in the implementation of WiFi in the health care industry during the past year. With WiFi technology available to patients and health care practitioners, remote telehealth applications show promise.

The health care industry is cutting the wires in droves. ABI Research reported on June 22 that WiFi use in the health care industry has grown at more than 60 percent during the past 12 months in wireless local area network and WiFi RTLS (Real-Time Locations Systems) deployments.

In the last year growth in cellular machine to machines (M2M) and wearable wireless sensors that allow doctors to monitor patients remotely have picked up significantly, according to ABI.

"WiFi adoption has helped overcome initial concerns about complexity and reliability of wireless within health care," wrote ABI Research principal analyst Jonathan Collins in a statement. "The growing number of wireless technologies and wireless applications being developed, piloted and deployed within health care further underline the level of interest in using wireless to improve the flexibility and efficiency of health care services around the world."

ABI has published the results in its Wireless Healthcare and Fitness Market Data on its site. The firm tracks the adoption of WiFi in areas such as remote patient monitoring, telehealth and telepresence, which allows people to collaborate and interact remotely over videoconferencing or other messaging services.

According to the research firm, health care users are usually the first adopters of new WiFi technology, and the recession of 2009-2010 didn't halt the growth of wireless activity. In addition to the home, patients in hospitals can now use WiFi to keep in touch with family and friends while recovering.

"The health care industry has come to rely on WiFi because it's versatile, proven technology that meets health care's unique needs - data-intensive work in highly mobile environments," Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance, told eWEEK. "It has advanced security mechanisms, high-performance technology, a robust certification ecosystem and an enormous range of certified devices."

ABI's Wireless Health Care Research Service tracks other wireless technology in the health care industry such as Bluetooth, Low-Energy Bluetooth, ZigBee, 802.15.4 and proprietary low power RF offerings to see how it's used in areas such as WLAN, personal monitoring, disease management, assisted living and telepresence.

"Wi-Fi can certainly support this kind of application, but there are some lower-power technologies that it will have to compete with such as Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee and proprietary offerings," Collins told eWEEK. "Any offering in this market will have to be extremely simple to install, and operate and existing Wi-Fi connections can't be relied upon to always be present.

With doctors now able to monitor patients' vital data from afar using wireless technology such as WiFi, ABI reported in July 2009 that remote patient monitoring is poised for major growth. At the time, the firm expected WiFi-enabled health care products worldwide (with the exception of WiFi-equipped medical equipment) to total $4.9 billion in 2014.