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PoE Challenges in the Healthcare Industry

PoE Challenges in the Healthcare Industry

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a scalable, cost-effective, and efficient networking solution for the 21st century. There are plenty of useful applications for PoE technology in the healthcare industry, especially when coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT). Rather than having to install both a power and data cable for every device on the network, Powered Devices (PDs) can be operated with just a single PoE cable. PoE – despite its many benefits – still suffers from its own limitations as well. In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the problems PoE aims to solve, and some of the PoE challenges in the healthcare industry along the way.

Networking Obstacles in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry faces many obstacles, specifically with regards to IT and networking. Today, IT personnel in the healthcare industry are tasked with:
  • Ensuring patient privacy
  • Using energy efficient hardware
  • Leverage technology for a competitive advantage
  • Boost overall network performance
Our modern society is more connected than ever before – the world is going digital, and the healthcare industry is no exception.Patients’ information and records are now largely stored digitally. Although new technology often helps us, it can also create new security risks. Security breaches can result in the theft of sensitive personal information. The theft of medical records and, worse still, social security numbers or bank information can ruin lives. Cybersecurity aside, healthcare company mergers can also prove problematic for hospitals and healthcare providers, especially when networks must be integrated together. Network mergers take time – this is especially true in the healthcare industry, as the networks are dealing with sensitive information and they are relied upon by both doctors and patients alike. An unreliable network could, in some instances, cost lives.PoE Cable Lastly, old networks in healthcare facilities probably aren’t operating at peak power efficiency, nor is it easy to work with old networks that rely on outdated switches or hubs.

Healthcare PoE Solutions

Luckily, PoE solves many of the problems listed above. Power over Ethernet is a powerful tool – it is scalable, flexible, efficient, secure, and best of all, it’s cheaper than traditional networking alternatives.Moreover, PoE can solve many of the networking issues healthcare facilities are facing today, especially when coupled with the power of IoT.

Security

A managed PoE switch can be used to set up IP security and surveillance cameras, Wireless Access Points (WAPs) and VoIP telephones. Additionally, many managed switches can be used to create secure VLANs, which are more secure than a traditional network. Since VLANs segment a network, they create several different broadcast domains, each of which permits isolated traffic to each domain. Simultaneously, the network’s bandwidth, availability, and security are increased.  

Energy Efficiency

PoE switches and PoE hubs can be used to monitor, reduce and control power usage, offering network administrators a huge opportunity to easily reduce energy consumption and, as a consequence, cut costs as well.

Flexibility

Like many other settings, flexibility is crucial when it comes to networking. Since PoE-enabled computers, WAPs, IP Cameras, and other PDs don’t need to be connected to a power outlet, they can be installed in any location where they are needed. Furthermore, moving a PoE computer proves equally painless.

IoT Technology

IoT is also becoming ever more prevalent in the healthcare industry. For example, IoT based medical devices – such as an Infusion Pumpinfusion pump, also known as a smart pump – are being used to administer medication without the presence of a doctor or a nurse. Electronic patient monitors are another prime example of IoT applications in healthcare. All of these IoT devices can be easily powered and operated via PoE.

PoE Limitations

Evidently, PoE has a whole host of benefits – it is a scalable, reliable, and efficient way to establish a secure network in a healthcare setting.Unfortunately, even PoE technology has its limitations. Here are some of PoE’s main drawbacks:

Installation Cost

Even though PoE is cheaper than traditional networking methods in the long run, healthcare facilities will still have to bear the brunt of the initial installation cost. An old network relying on non-PoE switches would have to either:
  1. Trash their existing infrastructure and reoutfit their network with PoE compatible switches
  2. Install PoE hubs to continue using their existing infrastructure
A network that’s already relying on non-PoE switches probably shouldn’t get rid of their existing infrastructure entirely, as it would prove to be too expensive. Rather, it is cheaper to use PoE hubs, which can take the data from a regular switch, inject it with power, and send a PoE signal down the line to the network’s powered devices.PoE Hub ApplicationKeep in mind, however, that despite PoE’s upfront installation costs, it’s still far cheaper than installing a non-PoE network. Rather than having to run both a power and data cable to every device on the network – not to mention installing power outlets in hard-to-reach places – a PoE network only requires technicians to run a single cable from the PoE switch (or hub) to the device.

Range

PoE suffers from some distance limitations, which is probably one of its biggest downfalls. Since PoE technology relies on traditional CAT Ethernet cables to deliver power and data, a PoE network is going to be limited by the effective range of traditional cables. Range varies depending on the access point and its required voltage, in addition to the amount of voltage provided by the Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE). The quality of the cable is also going to have an effect on the maximum effective range. The IEEE 802.3af and 802.3at PoE standards have a distance limit of 100 meters (328 ft), which is the limit of data transmission for Ethernet cables. Luckily, is a solution to this problem: You can buy PoE extenders and connect several PoE cables to them, significantly increasing their maximum range. Still, this won’t last forever. The farther away a device is from your PSE, the weaker the signal will become.PoE Extender ChainIn large hospitals and other big healthcare facilities, PoE switches and/or hubs may have to be installed in several different locations throughout the building.

Compatibility

Some devices on the network may not be PoE compatible, meaning they require one connection for data and another for power. In this instance, you won’t be able to run a PoE cable directly to the device. This may seem like it defeats the purpose of using PoE in the first place, and it does – kind of. Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions. You could get rid of the device and replace it with a PoE compatible device, but that would be pretty costly and a waste of a perfectly good device. This becomes even more problematic if a lot (or most) of your devices aren’t PoE compatible. Instead, you can use a PoE splitter (which is the opposite of a PoE hub/PoE injector, by the way) to connect a non-PoE device to a PoE cable. Basically, a PoE splitter takes the power/data signal from a PoE cable and splits it into two – one cable supplies power, and the other data. This way, you can still connect a non-PoE device to a PoE network without having to run separate power and data cables to the device.PoE Splitter ApplicationFurther still, using a PoE splitter eliminates the need to install power outlets in inconvenient locations, which reduces both installation time and cost.
Enabling PoE Technologies in the Healthcare Industry

Enabling PoE Technologies in the Healthcare Industry

The rate of progression in the medical field is increasing exponentially – new technology is emerging all of the time, and with IoT (Internet of Things) on the rise, automation is making its way to medicine as well. In fact, IoT in healthcare is taking off, as hospitals and senior living centers around the globe are beginning to use smart healthcare with IoT to better operate their facilities. Using IoT – powered by PoE – keeps patients safer and more comfortable than ever before. In addition, PoE surveillance systems help to keep healthcare facilities safer, both inside and out.

Benefits of IoT in the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare providers are always trying to monitor patients to the best of their ability. They want to make sure patients are as comfortable as possible while providing the best treatment at the same time.

Faster Diagnosis

Healthcare professionals can use IoT to automatically monitor things like their patients’ heart rates and blood pressures. The data is sent to a cloud, where it can be sorted and analyzed to give healthcare professionals a better idea of what’s going on. Thanks to IoT, doctors can make faster, more accurate diagnoses – which, in some extreme cases, can mean the difference between life and death.

Preventative Care

Data collected from IoT devices can be used to help doctors diagnose a problem more quickly – in the same way, the data can also be used to base treatments off of predictive-analytics. Looking to the future, there will be more personalized treatments for patients thanks to IoT data.

Patient Comfort

Even little things in a hospital – including its lighting – can have a big impact on a patient’s experience. PoE lighting is now being used to illuminate technologically progressive hospitals, but only when necessary. For instance, hospitals can be nerve-wracking by themselves; if the room lights up every time someone walks in or out, it can be hard to sleep and even more stressful than the experience should be.IoT coupled with PoE lighting can be programmed to make the environment more comfortable for the patient when they’re sleeping, and less distracting as well. Rather than turning on at full blast automatically, patients will only be exposed to dim lighting (only what’s necessary) while they’re trying to rest.PoE Lighting in HealthcareHospitals and nursing homes could even program the lighting to turn on when patients leave their bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and turn off again when they lay down again. The possibilities are endless. A well-rested patient is happier, healthier, and less stressed out as well.

Security

PoE surveillance systems are used to monitor the healthcare facility’s activity 24/7, helping to maintain a hospital or senior living center’s security protocol. Healthcare providers can assign zones to each part of the hospital, and even track individual personnel in the building. This is only the beginning of IoT security use cases.

PoE and Healthcare Use Case

All of the IoT devices that must be connected to the hospital’s network also need a power source. Rather than routing two cables – one for power and one for data – to every IoT device in the hospital, PoE is used to cut costs and increase efficiency. The former option is far too expensive and quickly becoming a way of the past. PoE enables IoT data and electricity to travel through an Ethernet cable. Devices on the network can securely send data (without range limitations or interference) to powered devices on the network.PoE & Healthcare Use Cases In a hospital especially, it’s imperative that data is transmitted reliably. If doctors can’t access vital information due to system failure, people could die. That’s why PoE is a great fit: It’s cheap to install, but it’s also reliable, secure, and efficient. Actually, PoE makes it easier than ever to reap the rewards of IoT in healthcare due to its simplicity; both installing and using PoE is relatively simple. The hardest part is running PoE cables from your PoE switch to a powered device. In the near future, everything in a hospital will be connected. From the second you walk in the front door, everything will be smoothly communicating, operating at peak efficiency. Every patient’s monitor will be sending data to a cloud which can be examined by doctors in real time, and the data can be used to determine what’s wrong with them. For example, crash carts can be tracked via PoE’s asset tracking functionality. Staff will be alerted immediately when something is moved out of its designated zone in the hospital, ensuring everything remains in the right place at the right time. Aside from equipment tracking, PoE asset tracking can be used to monitor staff as well. Each staff member will automatically be granted certain permissions according to their position in the hospital. Only top-level doctors can enter certain rooms, janitors can have access to janitorial closets, etc. In senior living homes, falls are a huge concern. IoT technology can alert facility staff when a patient leaves their bed, doesn’t return, and there isn’t any other motion detected for an extended period of time. This will make response times quicker and senior living homes safer. As you can see, PoE opens up the door to a whole new world of possibilities, especially in the healthcare industry.

Why Use PoE?

PoE is a simple, cost-effective way to upgrade your healthcare facility’s technological infrastructure, getting it ready for the future. Technology is advancing at an exponentially increasing rate. IoT and automation are the future of many industries, healthcare included.Rather than having to route two cables to each IoT powered device on the network, PoE can be used to supply data and power to every device in a healthcare facility in a cost effective manner. Only a network using PoE will be ready for the coming technological revolution of the 21st century. Will you be ready?