Top 5 Wi-Fi Technologies in Operating Rooms

September 20, 2014 Bob Zemke

Metro New York City has 53 top-ranking hospitals.  Chicago has 41 top-ranking hospitals.  Los Angeles has 32 top-ranking hospitals.   The list goes on; today every major US city has multiple highly-rated medical centers.  The power of selection is growing for patients, so the competition amongst hospitals is rapidly increasing.  New, innovative technology is allowing hospitals to deliver better patient care while providing hospital staff with seamless communication and streamlined operations, so they can be more effective in their day-to-day functions.  According to a recent Health Facilities Management Most Wired Survey, the usage of wireless networking has risen since 2010 with patient monitoring equipment, nurse call systems, and biomedical equipment, which is now 93 percent wireless.  Although the adoption of wireless technology has increased across most hospital functions, operating rooms are lagging behind.  Where wireless technology is being deployed in operating theaters, it has improved patient satisfaction through better communications, and improved operational efficiency through increased surgical throughput.

The purpose of technology is to provide improved clinical and financial results. Here are five of the top operating room technologies where Wi-Fi is having a strong impact today.


Effective communications for surgical teams is critical to the success of the procedures that take place within those confines.  Voice over Wi-Fi is now improving communication workflows among medical staff.  A great example of this is Vocera and their B3000 Communication Badge, which is a mobile, wearable and Wi-Fi enabled device.  It provides two-way or one-to-many wireless communication, which takes two major challenges out of the equation:

  • It is virtually hands-free, so once staff are sterilized there is no need to touch anything for communication
  • There is immediate communication between individuals and specialized support teams

Medical Devices

Wireless medical devices in the operating room prevent clutter and reduce the risk of injury to either the patient or the staff.  Going wireless also makes it much easier to move throughout the room without having to disconnect and reconnect wired medical equipment.  Wireless handheld controllers can easily position operating room tables, and transmit camera imaging to multiple surgical displays.  An example of a wireless medical device provider is Sotera Wireless with their ViSi Mobile solution.  ViSi Mobile provides continuous vital sign monitoring to show early indicators of patient distress.  Data can be transmitted wirelessly over the hospital’s wireless network and electronic information output (EMRs) is also provided.  The Dräger Infinity M300  is another wireless solution that provides continuous standalone monitoring, even when the patient moves outside of the operating theater.  Other medical devices such as IV infusion pumps and x-ray devices can now be connected wirelessly to the network to provide a virtually cord-free environment in the operating theater.

Location Awareness

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and real-time location services (RTLS) are the two essential location awareness technologies that Wi-Fi enables in operating theaters. Wireless location awareness is vital for tracking medical devices and instruments, and even patients. Location information becomes readily available to the surgical team and can be included in EHRs/EMRs.  Awarepoint ties RFID and RTLS together with their 100% wireless solutions that assure location accuracy, patient tracking, as well as asset management.  Leveraging RTLS can increase surgical throughput and generate more revenue.  For example, tracking operational metrics such as patient flow through the stages of a procedure can decrease OR turnaround time.  Expedited patient flows can add additional cases per day without increasing staff.  Improved surgical team communication, decreased turnaround time, and additional daily procedures will significantly reduce costs while generating more revenue for the hospital.  The expedited throughput and streamlined patient prep increases patient satisfaction.  Location awareness is vital to creating a real-time hospital setting. Barry Runyon, Research VP at Gartner emphasizes the importance of the Positive Patient ID (PPID) and how it enables a “real-time healthcare system” or RTHS.

Guest Access

While guest Wi-Fi access may not be critical for clinicians, it is highly demanded by guests in surgical waiting areas.  The stress of waiting for a loved one undergoing three, four, even eight hour surgery is nothing short of agonizing.  Offering a service that allows families to use their mobile devices as a distraction is critical for them.  There are also ways to keep them engaged in the process.  Henry Ford Health System based out of Michigan provides their surgical waiting room guests with a closed twitter network providing patient updates throughout the surgical procedure.  They will even direct-tweet the family/friends step-by-step through the procedure.  Guest access was once considered nice to have; now it is a necessity – Extreme Networks Guest Wi-Fi.

Google Glass

The increasing use of Google Glass in the operating room is enabling shared clinician perspectives and augmented reality that can be used for training and teaching, as described by Rafael Grossman, MD, FACS.  Google Glass is creating a streamlined surgical process in operating rooms with hands-free integration that provides efficiency and sterile use during surgery.  Philips Healthcare has a great video on the future of healthcare, showing how they already leverage Google Glass capabilities in a hospital environment.  Streaming via a hospital’s Wi-Fi connection, Google Glass can bring immense value to the surgical process in operating theaters.

Wi-Fi enabled operating theaters are mission-critical.  The evolution of technology is improving clinical and financial results for hospitals that are adapting to the change.  Patients, families, and the hospital’s expectations will only be increasing.  With operating room communications going hands-free, medical devices streamlining critical data and vitals wirelessly, RFID and RTLS increasing surgical throughput and generating more revenue, guest access providing an outlet for distraction, and Google Glass completely changing the way surgical procedures will be handled in the future, it is hard to ignore all of the benefits that wireless connectivity is providing operating theaters.  These five areas of technology are changing how healthcare is delivered today and will continue to improve the efficiency of the surgical staff as well as the satisfaction and care of patients around the world.

This blog was co-authored by Bob Zemke and Brian Clevesy. Follow them on twitter: @bobzemke@Brian_Clev

The post Top 5 Wi-Fi Technologies in Operating Rooms appeared first on Extreme Networks.


About the Author

Bob Zemke

Bob is the Director of Healthcare Solutions at Extreme Networks. An IT professional with a broad span of experience in healthcare, Bob has over 15 years working both within hospital IT and as a consultant in next generation network design, deployment, and management.

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