The healthcare industry has always been an early adopter of Wi-Fi. A new study from ABI Research forecasts that revenue from sales of Wi-Fi-enabled healthcare products worldwide (not even including Wi-Fi-equipped medical equipment) will total $4.9 billion in 2014. This represents an increase of nearly 70 percent over today's figure.
With $20 billion allocated in the US Stimulus Bill for the digitizing of medical records, and committees of the US Congress starting to address proposals for comprehensive reform of a medical industry that accounts for about one sixth of the US economy, attention is focused as never before on the opportunities for wireless communications in healthcare.
"It's a pretty big business,” noted ABI Research VP Stan Schatt in a classic understatement. “The strong uptake of Wi-Fi in the health industry is underpinned by its need for improved asset management, staff mobility, transfer of digitized records, and standardized administration of medications. In addition, government security requirements including HIPAA often mean replacing older wireless equipment with modern versions.”
Among the benefits of increased Wi-Fi penetration are reductions in operating costs, which is also a theme stressed by the Obama administration in its drive for healthcare reform.
However, healthcare Wi-Fi is no one-stop-shop. “No one vendor has all the necessary pieces to make a complete system for a major medical institution,” said Schatt. “It is truly a Tower of Babel.” There is a premium on partnerships and systems integration. Generally it's the wireless LAN equipment channel partner that integrates all these things and makes them work together. The manufacturers have to develop technology partnerships too, and share information so that devices can be optimized for their systems.
The new ABI Research study, “The Current State of Global Healthcare Wi-Fi” measures the size of this market, including horizontal market segmentation based on size of establishments. It examines key components of this market including Wi-Fi RTLS hardware and software, access points, managed services, and pure Wi-Fi and dual-band handsets. The report considers the technology challenges this market presents as well as the potential rewards. It provides in-depth profiles of leading vendors that highlight their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.