Three reasons hospitals are investing in distributed antenna systems

Hospitals were among the earliest and most active adopters of Wi-Fi, and now many facilities are also investing in distributed antenna systems (DAS) to boost in-building cellular capacity. DAS providers say there are several reasons hospitals are investing.

One network for all
Healthcare professionals rely increasingly on their smartphones to communicate with one another, and when that communication includes voice calls the cellular network is needed.

“Healthcare facilities are increasingly looking for solutions offering seamless and reliable connectivity to caregivers, patients, and visitors alike and deliver a high-performance connected experience to one and all,” said Eric Abbott, director of product management and strategy at ExteNet Systems.

In addition, patients and their visitors are increasingly data hungry, meaning that their activity on the Wi-Fi network could potentially compete with critical care applications. Keeping them on a cellular network mitigates this.

New funding models
Some hospitals have borne the entire cost of DAS, but it is much more common for healthcare facilities to share the cost with carriers and neutral host providers. Neutral host providers are companies like ExteNet Systems and Mobilitie that fund a system and supervise its construction, then rent nodes to the carriers.

“It’s really not binary, like either the carrier funds it or the hospital funds it, there’s often a bit of cooperation, there’s often a third party host involved,” explained Mobilitie’s John Bramfeld, the company’s director of wireless solutions. “In each case everyone is sort of balancing how much they need the network with what they’re willing to do to get the network.”

Bramfeld said he sees a number of cooperative funding arrangements for medium-sized hospitals. “That’s where you tend to see sort of the more flexible type arrangements, where clearly the venue made some concessions, and it was worth it to them to invest in it themselves, or you see the presence of a third-party neutral host provider.”

Innovation creates a virtuous cycle
The global market for mobile health services is expected to reach $49.1 billion by 2020, according to Grand View Research. Monitoring services are the biggest part of this market, with revenue estimated at $1.2 billion in 2012 and a projected compound annual growth rate of 49.7% from 2014 to 2020.

Smart devices, real-time communication and fast access to patient data are improving healthcare outcomes and in many cases reducing costs as well. Robust applications create a need for more infrastructure, and better infrastructure leads to the adoption and use of even more applications, which further taxes the network. Bramfeld said this cycle is encouraging investment. “They’re seeing so much upside to all this innovation that it’s worth it to them to now invest in this infrastructure that they sort of took for granted in another life.”

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