HIMSS10: Infrastructure planning breeds success in mobile healthcare

Wireless technology is everywhere, including in hospitals and clinics. It can liberate users, but it also can slow down workflow and expose organizations to data breaches.

At a Tuesday breakfast about mobile health strategies, hosted by FierceMobileHealthcare and FierceWireless at the annual HIMSS conference in Atlanta, Chris Gray, healthcare manager for Sprint Nextel, said organizations often falsely assume that they don't need to worry much about their wireless infrastructure. 

"If not designed right, wireless could be the weakest link," cautioned Ram Appalaraju, senior VP for marketing for Meru Networks. An infrastructure with uneven coverage or inadequate bandwidth slows down users and lowers job satisfaction, and a poorly secured wireless network could be an inviting target for hackers.

Users expect the wireless network to be the primary data conduit once it's in place, so it needs to perform like a wired network. "We still haven't reached, from an executive-suite perspective, a level where we can guarantee performance," added Geoffrey Brown, senior VP and CIO of Inova Health System, Falls Church, Va. And that's a serious problem, because wireless devices are popping up all over the place, driven by forces beyond the control of the average healthcare organization. "We're seeing the demand clearly outpacing the capabilities of the infrastructure," Brown said.

A common misconception is that one size fits all for wireless networks, according to Roger Zaremba, CTO of Saint Luke's Health System in Kansas City, Mo. "Getting everything--voice, data, video--to work together correctly is really a challenge," he said. "Understand what you're deploying, why you're deploying it and how does it work around other wireless networks and devices." Zaremba added.