Enabling the use of iPads in a hospital environment

Friday, 05 April, 2013


Mater Health Services North Queensland has introduced a new wireless network to cater to the growing demands of wireless devices in the hospital environment.

The organisation first implemented a basic wireless solution several years ago. But with the use of wireless equipment on the rise - both medical equipment and communications technology such as smartphones and iPads - the individually programmed legacy access points were showing limitations.

The hospital needed a more sophisticated system to handle the growing demand.

Mater’s education unit in particular needed better wireless connectivity. A joint project between Mater and James Cook University, the unit needed access to the James Cook network through Eduroam, a worldwide education roaming service that lets students connect as if they are on campus without having to request a guest account.

Mater chose an 802.11n wireless local area network (WLAN) from Meru Networks, consisting of a controller, access points (APs) and network management software on a service appliance. The WLAN provides wireless coverage in wards, operating theatres, public areas, outdoor areas and the education unit.

The solution is able to handle high density in the education unit. With five lecture rooms and an 80-seat conference centre, the unit can have up to 100 active connections at one time as students train and network using iPads and laptops. The solution supports this traffic volume with a single AP.

Mater IT manager Ian Evans said: “The health service currently has one AP servicing the education unit providing ample client density, where previously it would have needed eight or nine.”

The solution lets all APs operate on a single channel, which Evans said “makes wireless management simpler”.

Network planners made sure wireless signals don’t interrupt the use of medical equipment. Meru’s ability to deploy a Wi-Fi network as either a single-channel architecture, a microcell architecture or a channel-striped hybrid of both enables the hospital’s IT team to avoid the disruption of mission-critical areas.

“With more and more wireless equipment being introduced to the hospital, we need to be sure that wireless transmissions create as little interference as possible. This is critical to the health and safety of patients and staff. Now that we have a system that makes this possible, we can take advantage of wireless devices available in the market,” Evans said.

Following the implementation, Mater is piloting the use of iPads.

“Maintenance managers are using iPads to make adjustments as they move around the hospital,” said Evans. “For example, if someone reports that the air-conditioning is too hot or cold, maintenance can adjust it on the spot on the iPad.”

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