Digital transformation has wildly re-shaped the healthcare sector, adding even more technology into an industry that has historically had to be at the forefront of digital advancement. Innovative devices and applications are giving healthcare professionals new ways of diagnosing and treating patients faster, and more precisely. New technologies, such as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and the use of AI are becoming more promising than ever.
The use of technology in healthcare is growing quite rapidly, with the global digital health market reaching $201.24 billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $252.47 billion by the end of 2022. This growth is expected to continue into the future as well, with the market expected to reach $596.56 billion in 2026, as more digital use cases in healthcare are realized with every passing day.
Now, as healthcare organizations further embrace mobility and integration, the number of devices connected to their wireless networks continues to grow. The need for more expansive Wi-Fi has led many facilities to increase their number of access points to keep up with network and application demand. However, private wireless networks can offer a more effective, more secure, and cost-effective solution to move devices from healthcare organizations’ Wi-Fi networks.
“This technology can provide many benefits to organizations looking for better ways to manage their networks,” said Rousso, CMO, Pente Networks, developer of private 4G/5G/LTE network operating system software. “A private wireless network has a longer reach than Wi-Fi, so it requires fewer access points, it is much more secure and, being mobile by design, it can provide unmatched quality of services for personal and corporate devices and infrastructure. Benefits such as these have healthcare organizations rapidly seeking ways to adopt their own private wireless network, with many finding their solution is based on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum.”
CBRS refers to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz range, 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had initially designated for sharing among three tiers of users: incumbent users, priority access license (PAL) users, and general authorized access (GAA) users. However, roughly two years ago in April of 2020, the FCC began auctioning off the CBRS.
“CBRS helps enable enterprise apps that require real-time decision making at the edge and demand AI-based learning models in the cloud,” Rousso explained. “Such apps automate traditionally manual tasks at work and enable workers and employees to immediately get access to useful insights while also supporting advanced innovations including remote, robotic surgery, now accessible to even those in rural areas who have little access to specialists in their towns.”
The decision to auction off the CBRS meant that, for the first time, the availability of low-cost, shared wireless spectrum using the CBRS in the 3.5-3.7 GHz band now allowed enterprises to own and operate private LTE and 5G networks. CBRS has quickly become sought-after by organizations of all shapes and sizes, as it helps overcome the limitations of Wi-Fi, which is why the technology currently makes for such a perfect pair with the healthcare industry.
“CBRS private networks offer healthcare enterprises a variety of practical use cases that can not only be used every day but help save lives while being leveraged in emergency situations,” Rousso said. “For example, a CBRS network helps hospitals and other healthcare organizations greatly enhance their outdoor connectivity while supporting first-responder networks and more. Hospitals can use CBRS to connect outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots to their indoor networks, enabling nurses to test and triage patients outside the hospitals. By connecting to the indoor network, hospitals are able to onboard new patients efficiently, and nurses could use some of the same equipment they would have used indoors.”
Furthermore, CBRS networks will help the healthcare sector eliminate many of the challenges associated with telemedicine. Hurdles such as accessing and processing electronic medical record data, low-quality video and audio conferencing, and remotely monitoring medical device data can all be addressed by the faster, real-time networks provided by a private CBRS.
“Today, many hospitals rely on Wi-Fi and on public cellular for internal communication, but patients and guests rely on these same networks for communication that is much less critical. This means hospitals must make sure only the most critical messages and applications are being emphasized, but most Wi-Fi networks do not currently differentiate or prioritize traffic. However, with a private CBRS network, hospitals can pick and choose the important messages, such as when and where a crash cart is needed. In less dire circumstances, it can be used for remote patient monitoring, or RPM, which is another form of very critical communication and is usually accomplished with specialized devices connected to the patient.”
Most of these are currently connected with cables, but CBRS networks could create the opportunity to unplug some of these devices, allowing patients to move more freely and making it easier for nurses to care for them.
Overall, the healthcare industry is always going to have to be up to date with the latest technological advancements, for the health and safety of its community. To adequately leverage these devices, and new applications technology, healthcare enterprises must ensure their networks can handle the immense amount of data and connectivity that comes with digital transformation today.
“While Wi-Fi used to be the go-to network option, healthcare organizations must realize private CBRS networks is the present and the future, for both their own benefit and the benefit of their top priority, the patients,” Rousso concluded.
Edited by Erik Linask