I’m working on a solution brief about voice-over-wireless-LAN in medical centers for a company that provides wireless network security. Before your eyes cross and you tune me out entirely, I can assure you that there is something interesting here.

Imagine your wireless network at home, or at the office. There are dead spots, places where you can’t get a great signal, and other places where it can download stuff at blistering speeds. It’s a nuisance when you’re trying to download a large attachment in an email, but it can be a show-stopper if you’re trying to use a voice application as packet delivery is delayed and voice quality rapidly goes downhill. When my husband was in India on business, we quickly learned that there were parts of the house where using Skype was impossible, yet a quick shift 10 feet to the left gave such clear communications that you would have thought we were paying $2.50 a minute for a land line call instead of dialing out for free.

Now, picture a hospital or medical center. An increasing number of technologies are available that enable wireless voice communications through Star Trek-style comm badges, systems that streamline workflow, increase operational efficiencies and save the hospital money. But you have big problems in this setting. You don’t just have the usual dead spot issues that you have at home or in the office. You have electronic equipment that’s throwing off massive amounts of signal interference. You have lead-lined radiology rooms. Interruption in signal can mean a critical miscommunication. And on top of all of this, you have HIPAA privacy and security concerns, and a need for documented compliance data in the event of an audit.

All of this reminds me that hospital IT staff have an amazingly difficult job, complete with challenges that most other IT folks never have to consider.

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