During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, quite understandably, hospitals and other healthcare providers focused on what was most important – delivering urgent care. The scale of the pandemic strained resources as pop-up facilities appeared in car parks and sports halls across the nation. By late 2021, the CDC was recording up to 800,000 new cases daily, with over 20,000 hospital admissions in the second peak during February 2022.
One especially challenging aspect was the scaling up of activity necessitated by the vaccination program. IoT devices struggled to cope with the technical demands of extended premises, large volumes of patient information and the need for speedy data transfer.
As a result, policymakers have identified a need to ensure that hospitals are digitally optimized for the 21st century, able to cope with future pandemics and natural disasters, while remaining responsive and flexible in their approach. Cooperation and collaboration between providers of medical equipment, computer equipment and telecommunications technology, is required to achieve this transformation.
Connecting Healthcare through Localized Private Networks
There are several problems with relying on wireline WiFi technologies to empower pop-up medical facilities like vaccination centres and isolation wards. Firstly, last mile cabling can be an issue, slow to set up and awkward to make safe and viable.
Secondly, WiFi signals may not penetrate from their transmission points through building exteriors. Lastly, there may be no smart way to route data so that the most vital uses are prioritized (critical patient data over, for instance, patients streaming movies while in recover).
Private networks, by contrast, offer secure yet accessible, reliable, and flexible solutions in just these situations. They can be installed quickly and accessed by hundreds of IoT devices simultaneously, whilst maintaining secure access protocols. Once a campus-based network is instituted, it can be downsized or increased in size according to demand, with well-situated base stations providing a transmission radius as large or compact as you need.
Once doctors and nursing staff are provided with the right access protocols (which may include multi-factor authentication or biometrics) they will have safe access to a private WiFi network. This will allow them to transmit even sizable data packets from location to location, including MRI, CT or PET scan information and electronic patient records at high volume.
IoT in a healthcare setting means more than just tablets and laptops. Such devices include sensors, medical equipment, scanners, scales, and other automated systems which can provide early warning when a patient’s condition changes, allowing critical care teams to respond instantly. The signals from these devices can be routed through intelligent data management platforms which prioritize vital signals over non-critical ones.
Within a half-mile radius, which should serve most medical facilities, millions of such devices can successfully access a secure Private LTE network, especially one providing 5G coverage. PCS Technologies have built such networks using microwave transmission and advanced RF planning tools. We’ve done so in remote rural locations with challenging topography, and dense urban neighbourhoods with line-of-sight issues. These systems are highly flexible and amenable to bespoke deployment, dependent on the challenges of each location. This is one of their greatest advantages over legacy systems.
Linking Healthcare at Source with Healthcare Planning
The era of paper records being lost in transit or destroyed in fires or floods should be over. Now, billions of bits of data can be stored securely in the cloud, or in edge storage systems, and called upon when required. Hospitals, clinics, and surgeries ought to be able to talk to one another securely, with appropriate access to patient data as and when needed.
Pandemic planning requires urgent access to accurate data and statistics. It relies upon systems which transmit such data accurately and quickly to inform better healthcare management.
By combining a secure network and nodes with software and hardware solutions like AI, IoT, data analytics and cloud storage systems, it becomes possible to create a completely secure data ecosystem which can be shaped for healthcare purposes. Private networks deliver this fully optimized service far better than legacy communications technologies.
Why are Traditional Communications Methods Insufficient?
Traditional WiFi is no longer sufficiently secure or reliable for critical care use cases. Ethernet requires extensive cabling, causing disruption and the risk of outages, cyber-attacks or even sabotage. By creating a unique private network at each location, healthcare providers can guarantee maximum efficiency and throughput with reduced latency and enhanced security and flexibility.
Let’s summarize the pros and cons of traditional ethernet connections or wireline WiFi versus Private LTE networks:
Traditional WiFi / Ethernet
- Readily available technology
- Already understood by most users
- Comparatively low cost
- May not cope with demand from thousands of devices
- Doesn’t prioritize data sources via optimization platforms
- Can have throughput and latency issues
- Hard to upscale at speed
- May be vulnerable to cyber attacks
- Can be set up or upscaled quickly
- High performing in terms of throughput
- Links networks of IoT devices through prioritization platforms
- Security can be strengthened via access privileges and authentication
- Low latency and high penetration
- Requires additional hardware
- May be more expensive to set up (delivers savings in mid- to long-term)
- Requires additional training
It should be evident from the above summary that the cons of Private LTE networks in healthcare settings are easily overcome, and that the technology is far more future proof than ethernet or other legacy WiFi systems.
Private LTE Networks for Future-Proof Healthcare Provision
The 21st century healthcare ecosystem will stand or fall in terms of how it can manage and utilize large volumes of patient information. This must be achieved on both macro and micro levels. Macro in terms of aggregated patient data for CDC and other reporting purposes. Micro to ensure that an individual’s health data is communicated quickly and accurately between facilities.
As the population ages, delivering technologically advanced data solutions for ALL patients, regardless of income, will be more and more vital to achieve a fair society. America needs to lead the way in exploring such technologies, thereby demonstrating that it really cares about its population’s wellbeing.
Private LTE networks are at the vanguard of this equitable and crisis-ready healthcare revolution.
Let us Deliver your Private LTE Network for Healthcare Data Optimization
PCS Tech has almost thirty years’ experience delivering advanced technology solutions for data and communications management. Within healthcare, we’ve already set up Private LTE networks to deliver excellent telecom performance. Why not look at some of our network case studies?