Adjustments made to hospital policies regarding the use of wireless devices have created an atmosphere for the increasing use of these systems, according to Kalorama Information. The healthcare market research publisher says the total market for wireless technologies in healthcare in the U.S. was valued at $4.4 billion in 2010. Five years ago, the market was $1.7 billion. In its report, Wireless Opportunities in Healthcare 2011, the company said wireless devices using personal area wireless networks such as ZigBee and Bluetooth are driving this growth.
"The WPANs are the growth engines because of the mobile nature of healthcare delivery," said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. "Some of this growth is due to innovations from device makers to avoid interference, and some is due to the flexibility of hospital policies regarding wireless devices."
The types of devices increasingly used by healthcare workers include tablet PCs, smart phones and PDAs, but also mobile and desktop computer stations with wireless capabilities. According to Kalorama, manufacturers of these devices are building wireless-enabled devices with 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth or other wireless technologies. The current crop of new devices is designed to work in an environment with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and RFID so they have added protection from unwanted interference. In addition, changing hospital industry consensus and an influential 2007 Mayo Clinic study which downplayed interference have led to relaxed policies. Specific sections of a hospital such as ORs or ICUs are often marked as "cellphone-free" as the possibility for interference exists with some of the technologies. But in other centers a ban hasn't been implemented or is expected to be lifted due to the inability to reproduce interference.
Kalorama indicates that technology providers must ensure that installed systems are not going to interfere with devices. Or in some hospital departments, a ban on outside wireless devices will likely continue. For example, competing systems running on the 2.4 or 5 GHz band can cause interference with each other. Some wireless phone systems or headsets use the 2.4 GHz band and Wi-Fi routers may also use the same frequency.
More information on this topic can be found in Kalorama Information's new report: Wireless Opportunities in Healthcare 2011 (The Market for Bluetooth, RFID, ZigBee, UWB WWAN, WMAN, WLAN and other technologies).
About Kalorama Information Kalorama Information supplies the latest in independent medical market research in diagnostics, biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and healthcare; as well as a full range of custom research services. We routinely assist the media with healthcare topics.