The healthcare industry-at least the parts of it the general public has come in contact with-is not known for its IT infrastructure (think electronic medical records). It has, however, always been an early adopter of Wi-Fi, according to ABI Research, which has just released information on a new study, The Current State of Global Healthcare Wi-Fi.
The market research company now forecasts that revenue from sales of Wi-Fi-enabled healthcare products worldwide (not even including medical equipment) will total $4.9 billion by 2014. That's an increase of almost 70 percent over today's figure.
With $20 billion allocated in the federal stimulus bill for digitizing medical records, and committees in Congress starting to address proposals for comprehensive reform of a medical industry that accounts for about one-sixth of the U.S. economy, attention is focused as never before on the opportunities for wireless communications in healthcare.
But IT needs to go beyond digitizing medical records. "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," says Stan Schatt, ABI Research vice president. "In addition, government security requirements, including HIPAA, often mean replacing older wireless equipment with modern versions."
"It's a pretty big business," Schatt adds in a classic understatement.
Among the benefits of increased Wi-Fi in healthcare are reductions in operating costs, which is also a theme stressed by the Obama administration in its drive for healthcare reform.
Regarding the vendors that will provide Wi-Fi products and services, Schatt says, "No one vendor has all the necessary pieces to make a complete system for a major medical institution. It is truly a Tower of Babel."
So there is a premium on partnerships and systems integration, according to the company. Wireless LAN systems integrators will be sorely needed to get the new systems to work together. Manufacturers will need to develop technology partnerships too, and share information so that devices can be optimized for their systems.
The study, available from ABI Research, measures the size of the market, including horizontal market segmentation based on the size of the organizations, and looks at key components such as Wi-Fi RTLS hardware and software, access points, managed services, and pure Wi-Fi and dual-band handsets.
The report also considers the technology challenges in the market as well as the potential rewards, and provides in-depth profiles of leading vendors that highlight their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.