by Martha DeGrasse, RCR Wireless News
As tighter budgets force healthcare providers to do more with less, efficient delivery of services becomes key to providing quality care. Ubiquitous broadband enables doctors and nurses to communicate quickly, and to use state-of-the-art medical apps like MedCalc,LabGear and The Merck Manuals. But getting that ubiquitous coverage inside a hospital can be a challenge.
“Hospitals notoriously are some of the worst environments for radiofrequency (RF) coverage,” according to David Hoglund, founder of Integra Systems. “Due to the age of buildings and the use of lead-lined rooms, tilewalls, fluids and lots of metal, they are challenged with multi-path.” So it’s hardly a surprise that distributed antenna systems are just what the doctor ordered for many hospitals.
“We are seeing very large growth in healthcare opportunities, healthcare that’s really looking at growing their wireless infrastructure base, really being driven by the applications that are being used by the medical community within that facility,” says Darlene Braunschweig, the newly appointed president of Tempest Telecom‘s DAS and small cell division. “So you’ll find with the latest smart tablets and that capability, a doctor or a nurse can actually have those applications live in a patient’s room and do a lot of their work at the patient’s bedside, and having that in-building capability is very, very important.”
Hospitals need to accomodate a large and dynamic population of patients, visitors, professionals and staff, so often it is impractical for a hospital to rely on just one wireless carrier for a DAS solution. “In these instances a lot of it is neutral host so we’ll get multiple carriers to fund some sites because that’s important to the enterprise to have that neutral host capability,” says Braunschweig.
One challenge for Tempest and other DAS deployers working in the healthcare area is supporting the variety of medical devices that often rely on a hospital’s existing WLAN. One option for hospitals is to continue using Wi-Fi to support medical devices even after a DAS is installed. But this can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the DAS, because the Wi-Fi network can decrease the coverage areas of the DAS antennas.