The new chapter in wireless patient monitoring

As reforms to the healthcare system continue to place emphasis on value-based care and outcomes-based reimbursement, it is important for hospitals and health systems to take advantage of technologies that reduce risk and ensure optimal patient care. Wi-Fi-based patient monitoring is one area of medical technology that promises to help achieve these important goals. Organizations that are adopting this technology are advancing a new chapter in wireless patient monitoring that is expected to grow rapidly in the future.


Harsh Dharwad headshot   include in print layout!

This content is sponsored by Nihon Kohden

Medical technology company Nihon Kohden estimates that approximately 16 percent of U.S. hospitals and health systems had implemented WiFi-based wireless patient monitoring by the end of 2016. That number is expected to jump to 34 percent in the next two years with the help of new technologies like Nihon Kohden's HiQ wireless patient monitoring system, which is due to launch in October 2017. Here, the company's Chief Technology Officer Harsh Dharwad shares what hospital and health system leaders need to know to make their Wi-Fi-based patient monitoring deployments successful.

Question: What are the biggest misconceptions or concerns among hospital and health system leaders about WiFi-based patient monitoring vs. traditional RF systems?

Harsh Dharwad: I would say the biggest concern hospitals have in regards to Wi-Fi-based patient monitoring is around reliability or loss of data. They have experience with RF-based (radio frequency) technology and so they trust it, while Wi-Fi-based patient telemetry is still new to them. In addition, some hospitals probably believe that in order to use Wi-Fi patient monitoring, they have to pay a vendor to install a parallel Wi- Fi network. We designed our HiQ System to fully address all of these concerns. The technology is here today to make Wi- Fi-based patient monitoring a new standard in hospitals and health systems.

Q: What are the advantages of Wi-Fi-based monitoring over traditional RF monitoring?

HD: A major advantage of Wi-Fi-based monitoring over traditional RF monitoring is that it allows hospitals that have installed IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) wireless networks to leverage their existing infrastructure and investment; they don't have to spend additional resources to install traditional RF antennas. Another great advantage is that it can be deployed without having to sacrifice bandwidth. Traditionally, Wi-Fi-based monitoring manufacturers have asked hospitals to create separate channels just for their systems, but our HiQ system can actually coexist with other devices on the hospital's network and share that bandwidth. Lastly, the technology utilizes the latest security practices, such as SSL and WPA security protocols.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of migrating from traditional RF systems and how does Nihon Kohden help with those challenges?

HD: Many hospital and health system leaders are familiar with WMTS-based wireless patient monitoring technology, since that is what has been available to them in the past. The first challenge is to make sure that they know that new Wi-Fi-based technology is available and it is viable for use today.

When hospitals are ready to make the switch, Nihon Kohden consults with them every step of the way. We start by doing a thorough review of their wireless infrastructure, actually taking our system and running it on their backbone. We walk through the hospital to identify areas of poor coverage, and then fine-tune our system to make it optimal for their specific network. We also provide recommendations in regards to any network upgrades that may needed for successful deployment.

Q: How would you describe Nihon Kohden's HiQ wireless patient monitoring system?

HD: The HiQ system is a robust data acquisition and management platform designed for integrated delivery networks that want to leverage their 802.11 wireless networks. The system features a suite of fully functional central unit, bedside, transport and wearable patient monitors that meet patients where they are, anywhere Wi-Fi is enabled in the hospital setting. With HiQ, ambulatory care can be expanded to virtually every area of the hospital.

Q: How does the HiQ system advance the use of wireless patient monitoring in the hospital setting?

HD: HiQ advances the area of wireless monitoring by being uniquely interoperable and bandwidth preserving. It can connect to and share bandwidth with all of the other devices on the hospital's network. Smart algorithms send data back and forth, permitting seamless interaction with the hospital's EMR and allowing continuous flow of data from intake through discharge. Numerous gateway solutions for HL7, pagers and remote reviewers ensure that healthcare practitioners get the data at right place at the right time in the right way.

This seamless and secure flow of data can help boost patient safety and workflow efficiencies by remotely updating physicians and nurses to patients' changing conditions in real time, thereby supporting practitioners' decision-making abilities. Real-time data flow into the EMR allows nurses to spend less time charting and more time caring for patients.

Q: How does the HiQ system handle dead spots in the hospital?

HD: We have incorporated a smart backfill capability to ensure data integrity even in the instance of dead spots. If a patient ever gets into a dead spot in the hospital or if there is breakage in the Wi-Fi connection, the system is smart enough to realize that there was a gap in coverage. When the device comes back in range, it seamlessly backfills the data, helping prevent data loss during the patient's episode of care. The system also has very little throughput, so it doesn't occupy a lot of data, and its remote telemetry devices keep patients safe with 18 to 20 hours of battery life.

Q: You said all of the HiQ monitors are full-featured. What do you mean by that?

HD: Hospitals purchasing the HiQ system do not have to compromise features and safety to save costs. We build all of our systems according to a "premium-as-standard" product philosophy, which ensures that all parameters, waveforms, alarms and trends are included in base configuration – including on all wearable and transport monitors. The system is designed to keep every patient safe, even when acuity changes, no matter where he or she is in the hospital.

Q: What are your customers telling you about the HiQ system? Have you had any early users?

HD: Prior to the October 2017 launch date, we have piloted a number of test deployments with potential customers, utilizing the Wi-Fi infrastructure "as-is" at the hospital sites. The feedback from these pilots has been very positive, with the backfill feature being most notably highlighted.

Q: How does the HiQ system fit into the company's overall business and market strategy?

HD: Nihon Kohden's HiQ system is emblematic of the evolution we are seeing in the healthcare industry today.

Traditionally, medical devices have tended to be isolated products that have a specific function to perform. But over time, they've become smart products that can communicate, not only performing the functions they are supposed to perform but also communicating back and forth with other devices.

We as a company are part of an industry transition that is moving beyond basic device interoperability to the ability to deliver predictive and preventative health. By predictive and preventative health, we mean using all of these medical devices that produce and share lots of data and eventually creating value out of the data as well. In this light, we see ourselves evolving into a medical informatics company in the future.

Nihon Kohden's smart devices, like the HiQ system, are data acquisition and management platforms that can provide meaningful information to hospitals so that they can ultimately achieve predictive and preventative health. Our ultimate aim as a company is to provide our customers the tools necessary for them to gain actionable information in the context of their hospital and the population.

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