Designing your hospital’s wireless infrastructure for 5G

A well-planned strategy today will lead to digital success tomorrow

The healthcare sector in the United States is exploding. Between 2006 and 2016 2.8 million jobs were added, almost seven times faster than the overall economy. There has been 20 percent growth in healthcare jobs since 2008, and this pace is pretty much expected to continue until 2026, again outpacing the overall economy. And, in 2018, it is expected that 18 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will be attributed to healthcare spending.

The healthcare sector is booming due to several reasons, but first and foremost it can be attributed to the aging population. Approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. Also, federal healthcare insurance reform has contributed to an overall increase in the number of people seeking medical care.

In order to keep pace with the needs of this thriving industry, wireless technology is growing in importance. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are widely deployed in hospitals already. However, as smartphone users consume more and more data and the number of IoT sensors and applications grows, CIOs know that these wireless technologies will not adequately support increasing and changing demands. Instead CIOs must turn to cellular connectivity to support the growing mobile needs not only in-building, but also across expansive outdoor healthcare campuses. Seamless wireless connectivity is a must for the thousands of employees, visitors and patients that are onsite every day.

5G will enable the many new use cases and support the growing demands of mobile subscribers; therefore, it is critical that CIOs take the necessary steps today to ensure their wireless infrastructure is ready. In this article, we will explore some of the many new applications that 5G will introduce, and how CIOs must consider support for them in their digital strategy today.

New Opportunities with 5G
Many areas in healthcare will be impacted by the introduction of 5G. Below are just a few of the many use cases that will grow in prominence during the next few years.

1. Expand Telehealth
According to a study by Market Research Future, the telehealth market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5 percent from 2017 to 2023. This expansion will be due partly to 5G’s low latency (one millisecond and less) and high bandwidth capabilities. Thanks to 5G, patients who cannot easily travel after being released from a hospital will be able to connect virtually with doctors to conduct secure online consultations. With 5G’s lightning fast speeds, large images or MRI files will be easily downloaded, helping doctors to make the correct diagnosis for a remote patient.

2. Enable Personalized Healthcare
5G will usher in a new era of personalized healthcare with its ability to leverage large amounts of patient-specific data, which will be easily accessible using smartphones. This data will be utilized to develop predictive analytics, allowing healthcare providers to tailor their treatments more specifically for every patient.

3. Robotics in the Operating Room and Beyond
As we know robotics are heavily entrenched already in some industries, such as manufacturing. However, with the advent of 5G, robotics will also be widely used in healthcare. These robots will not only perform everyday functions such as transporting items within a hospital, but they will also enable telesurgery. Operations will be orchestrated remotely by doctors anywhere in the world while the onsite robots will actually perform the surgery.

Preparing for 5G
According to Gartner 80 percent of wireless networks installed today will be obsolete in 18 months; therefore, it is critical that CIOs deploy a network, which can support these growing and every changing applications of tomorrow. In order to accomplish this goal, below are six considerations, which should be included in a CIO’s wireless strategy today.

1. Let’s Start with the Proper Foundation
To secure the level of intelligence and wireless connectivity 5G promises, CIOs must lay the proper foundation today. Water, gas and electricity are considered at the time a hospital is in its initial architectural stage. Today wireless connectivity is the fourth utility, which means it should also be in the initial plan. However, unlike the other utilities, wireless technology is in a state of constant change, leading to the promise of many new use cases, making it critical that the selected supplier provides a clear path to the future.

2. A 360-Degree Approach is Necessary
A CIO should work with the selected technology vendor to generate a 360-degree approach when deploying a wireless network to support 5G. This approach can be divided into five levels. The first level will address wireless connectivity as a foundational element as discussed above. The next level will deal directly with the IoT devices and sensors that will be critical to collecting and measuring the data that will be enabled by 5G. In the third level, device management and data aggregation will be addressed before being sent to the Cloud. While the fourth level will transform this data into actionable insights, helping doctors to more efficiently tailor patient treatments and CIOs to implement measures to improve the healthcare facility’s overall productivity. The top level will consider the healthcare professionals who will directly experience new enhanced ways to conduct business, from robotic surgery to remote alerting, monitoring and administering of medicine.

3. Design for Wireless Success
As IoT becomes increasingly pervasive in healthcare facilities, edge RAN technology will enable the many new applications with mobile edge computing (MEC). Video conferencing, robotic surgery and many other applications will become mainstream because of the low latency at the network edge. To support these forthcoming applications, CIOs should be aware of how future technology in their hospitals will migrate to this new edge topology. To ensure the best mobile performance with minimal environmental impact, CIOs need to understand where antennas should be installed to optimize coverage for applications in the future yet still maintain aesthetics. In addition, when determining antenna placement, SINR or signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio must be considered. Healthcare facilities need to ensure good SINR with proper antenna placement, taking into account the level of interference, which can be quite burdensome in hospitals with its many sensors, machines and smartphone users present every day.

4. Support New Wireless Spectrum
With the advent of 5G, new spectrum, licensed and unlicensed, will become available to use across healthcare campuses. Today’s available spectrum includes licensed bands in the 600 MHz to 2700 MHz range. However, this will change as mid-band spectrum, such as CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service), becomes available. It will include 150 MHz of spectrum that can be shared by all operators. And, by combining it with currently available spectrum, the average peak capacity can be dramatically increased to support 5G applications such as those related to telehealth. The fiber plan, conduit, and powering for wireless equipment must be reviewed to ensure it does not have to change as new spectrum is introduced.

5. The Hospital Reimagined with New Sensors and Layers
Healthcare facilities must plan for the different service layers required to support the many new sensors, which will enable forthcoming 5G applications that will reimagine the hospital of today. Some sensors will require ultra-reliable low latency communication such as those used in robotic surgery. Again, the fiber plan, conduit and powering for wireless equipment must be reviewed to ensure it does not have to change to accommodate these new service layers.

6. Software-Based Wireless Access Networks are the Future
Wireless infrastructure is evolving to software access networks in order to combat the 5G challenges, such as delivering mobile edge computing services, lowering latency for high performance sensors, and minimizing the footprint within a hospital to maximize space for patients. Today wireless connectivity is delivered via complex, space consuming, proprietary technology. However, newer healthcare facilities realize that to stay competitive they need to be designed with a natural migration path to software-based infrastructure, which significantly reduces the onsite footprint, decreases powering and cooling requirements, and operates similar to data center software.

Ensure a Smooth Evolution to 5G
In order to stay competitive and keep pace with the changing needs that 5G will present, CIOs must think about how today’s digital strategy will affect tomorrow’s business. By taking these wireless network considerations into account today, a smooth transition to 5G will occur.

For information on JMA Wireless solutions for the healthcare market, please visit https://www.jmawireless.com/solutions/industries/healthcare

Author Bio:
Mr. Landry is the Corporate Vice President of Product and Market Strategy at JMA Wireless. He is a technology, business and marketing executive with a long history of developing winning product portfolios and is well-known for his successful execution of vision and strategies in the areas of IT and communications infrastructure.

Mr. Landry has held executive positions in companies such as NEC Corporation where he led the evolution of their software and cloud-based unified communications platform and NEC’s Smart Enterprise initiative globally. Prior to NEC, Mr. Landry was at Sphere Communications, a startup software company, where he led an initiative to establish a scalable all-software UC platform (later sold to NEC Corp). At 3Com’s CommWorks and U.S. Robotics he led strategy, product management and is best known for creating the industries on-ramps for access to the Internet and the first packet data connectivity infrastructure solutions for mobile operators.

Mr. Landry is very active in industry workgroups, standards organizations, and customers worldwide. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Association (ATIS) and has served on multiple industry standards boards during his career. He holds two granted patents and has several patent applications filed in areas of communications and wireless systems.

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