Medicine is now the key WiFi driver

The flexibility and efficiency of WiFi has led many hospitals into looking at new uses for Bluetooth, Zigbee, wireless LAN and location-based services.

We usually think of WiFi in terms of coffee shops.

But WiFi has become, primarily, a medical technology.

ABI Research has been tracking this for years, and says the trend is still going strong. WiFi in medicine has grown 60% in just the latest year, and perhaps more important has become a stalking horse for other wireless technologies.

The flexibility and efficiency of WiFi has led many hospitals into looking at new uses for Bluetooth, Zigbee, wireless LAN and location-based services.

Efforts by companies like Philips to set-aside dedicated spectrum for body area networks now find wide industry support.

Hospitals were once skeptical of using wireless for patient monitoring, fearing interference with visitors' cell phones. Those fears have proven to be overblown.

As a result excitement within the profession for wireless continues to grow. Anything that requires plugs and running wires costs millions before it can be implemented. Wireless solutions require merely a collection of hot spots with routing, and since most hospitals already have them their capital cost is minimal.

Politicians and political interests are also starting to take note of the cost-effectiveness of wireless medicine.

In testimony today before a subcommittee of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Darrell West of the Brookings Institution (above, from Brookings) emphasizes the usefulness of wireless technology in serving rural residents.

Remote monitoring helps these patients take more control over their own conditions, he argues. Monitors for common diseases like diabetes are becoming smaller, less obtrusive, and easier to use.

A Brookings Institution analysis undertaken by economist Robert Litan found that remote monitoring technologies could save as much as $197 billion over the next 25 years. Cost savings are especially prevalent in the chronic disease areas of congestive heart failure, pulmonary disease, diabetes, and skin ulcers.

West, whose work usually focuses on increased political polarization, is advising the Department to buy wireless in order to save money.

But wireless can also make money, for equipment makers, for manufacturers, for re-sellers, and for hospitals.

Wireless medicine is not a partisan point.

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