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5 Wireless Best Practices That Could Make the ACA Affordable

It's no secret that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has levied some challenges on the healthcare industry in the interest of improving patient care. Incentives to reduce readmissions, reduce hospital acquired conditions, and reduce or eliminate highly expensive ICU visits are all worthwhile outcomes. But what of the cost to hospitals to implement all of these outcomes? Moreover, what can device makers do to alleviate this pressure?

For Olivia Hecht, senior marketing manager, wireless and networking, Philips Healthcare, the answer is wireless technology. Speaking at BIOMEDevice Boston,  Hecht believes wireless is not only a growth opportunity for device makers; it also has the potential to affect end user clinical workflow enhancements such as asset tracking and alerting caregivers;and patient comfort, mobility, and satisfaction – with technologies such as wireless implants and sensors; and improve emergency response.
 
However, properly implementing wireless isn't just about gathering technology. The key is in balancing this technology correctly with the needs of the users – whether it be patients or caregivers. A wireless alert system for nurses, for example, can be great, unless the nurses are overwhelmed by it and experience “alarm fatigue.” Something designed to cut costs could actually end up adding cost due to inefficiency.
 
Hecht advices devices makers and hospitals to think about the technology and the end-user experience. “It's not just enough that you've done it. You have to understand how it's being deployed,” Hecht says. She lists a group of best practices companies looking to implement wireless into their devices should follow:
 
  1. Companies should develop critical 802.11 competency including chipset and module development and should choose an off-the-shelf module as possible. Attenna design is also an important factor depending on the needs and requirements of the system.
  2. It's important to understand the usage model as well. Again, the technology should be implemented in a way that makes sense to users.
  3. Quality of service (QoS) and Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) should be a prioritized in order to optimize network traffic and allocation of resources..
  4. Security should be of the highest level. Hecht recommends WPA2-enterprise for hospitals and organizations.
  5. Interoperability testing. “Your device is part of an ecosystem,” Hecht says. A device cannot operate independently it has to function as part of an entire wireless strategy. The system should also be open to augmentation and allow new devices to be added into it when necessary.

-Chris Wiltz is the Associate Editor of MD+DI

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