Voice over Wireless LAN in healthcare

The ability to quickly communicate makes Voice over Wireless LAN technology a sales opportunity for VARs and systems integrators servicing healthcare organizations.

Hospitals were one of the first users of VoWLAN solutions, such as Vocera, mainly because of the significant need for effective communication among high-valued medical staff. The ability for doctors and nurses to respond quickly with verbal instructions is crucial for saving the lives of patients. For example, Children's Hospital in Madera, Calif., uses a VoWLAN system to support push-to-talk features on its VoWLAN phones to broadcast Code Blue alerts that summon emergency teams. Patients receive a higher level of care, which leads to faster recovery. VoWLAN systems allow hospital staff to not waste time looking for a phone to use.

An issue with deploying VoWLANs in hospitals, though, is the difficulty in providing adequate wireless LAN coverage. Hospitals include x-ray rooms surrounded by lead, irregular metal objects, and unpredictable traffic flows of people. These factors lead to significant signal impairments. In addition, RF interference from other wireless systems operating in the 2.4GHz band, such as frequency-hopping spread spectrum devices, can cause degradation in performance. As a result, installers must conduct thorough RF site surveys when identifying optimum placement of wireless access points.

Hospital in Northeast U.S. benefits from VoWLAN solution

Doctors and nurses at this hospital, as in others, are always on the move, taking care of patients. To do this effectively, the doctors and nurses must be capable of contacting each other immediately as emergencies arise, which is fairly often. For example, a nurse may find that a particular patient develops complications a few hours after surgery and needs immediate attention from a doctor. Before VoWLAN systems, the nurse would try calling the doctor on a cell phone. Cell coverage in the hospital was not very good, and the call would go immediately to the physician's voice mail. If the nurse could not make immediate contact with the doctor over the cell phone, which was about 75% of the time, the nurse would then call the doctor's pager. Pager coverage was very good throughout the hospital. The physician would receive the page and then find a wired phone to call the nurse. This task added significant delays because a phone could not always be found quickly, and the nurse would have to wait around a phone for the doctor to call (taking the nurse away from the patients needing assistance).

The hospital deployed a wireless LAN that supports the use of VoWLAN phones, enabling doctors and nurses to stay in immediate contact with each other. Now when a nurse needs a doctor's attention to help an ailing patient, the nurse can simply call the doctor directly using the VoWLAN phone. All calls go through because the wireless LAN was installed in a manner that provides signal coverage in all parts of the hospital. This solution significantly reduces communications delays, and patients receive immediate attention and care.

The hospital installed 120 wireless LAN access points to provide signal coverage for the VoWLAN phones. To determine optimum access point installation locations, the hospital conducted an RF site survey. Ensuring high enough signal strength and cell overlap throughout the hospital is very important to maintain effective operation of the phones and roaming.

Learn the role Voice over Wireless LAN can play in the following environments or download Chapter 1, VoWLAN applications and benefits from Deploying Voice over Wireless LANs by Jim Geier, and learn the history of Voice over Wireless LANs and how to calculate ROI.

Voice over Wireless LAN: Opportunities for VARs and systems integrators

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