Roger Sands

How historical analytics make a difference for healthcare

December 18, 2020
By Roger Sands

When an entire healthcare facility depends on reliable wireless networks, the WiFi is more than a perk of the twenty-first century: it’s a mission-critical foundation for patient health, care, and recovery. Optimizing networks and maintaining reliable WiFi becomes crucial for everything from safely monitoring patients’ vitals in real-time, to checking-in patients and providing easy bill pay; not to mention any building WiFi that could support anything from security cameras to printers. To best support these devices and systems, healthcare IT professionals need historical analytics.

Why historical analytics?
The real-time health of a network is incredibly important, but it’s equally as important to be aware of trends over time in areas like client distribution, airtime and client utilization, and infrastructure health and performance. Tracking these trends gives IT professionals the insight that they need into long-term network changes that might not be readily apparent with day-to-day analytics. Even if network tests reveal no red flags, have no doubt that the network is changing. Tracking these changes over time supports future optimization.

Historical analytics can provide insights such as:
- Which infrastructure devices are trending slower performance and will need to be upgraded or reconfigured - as well as which devices do not need to be upgraded
- How airtime utilization has changed in different areas of the facility - for example, is there new interference coming from recently installed equipment? Remember that interference can come from WiFi and non-WiFi sources
- How client devices are using the network - as an example, has an increase in telemedicine visits impacted the network because of the increased video streaming?
- Which areas of the facility have the highest density of devices - this is especially useful information to have if a facility is planning to upgrade to WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and needs to know which floors or offices will benefit most from the upgrade
- If a recent upgrade was made, is it affecting the network in all the desired ways? What was network performance like before and after the upgrade?

Facilities that track health and performance trends over time are better equipped when it’s time for budget and capacity planning because they have the answers to these questions and more. Administrators can make insightful assumptions about future needs based on past analytics, and improve patient care.

How do I get historical analytics?
The easiest way to consistently gather historical analytics is with AI-based analytics platforms. This is for two reasons. One, you want analytics from every device connected to the network. Two, you need an optimized and reliable network for the best analytics.

Analytics from all devices
Gathering these analytics in real-time on a consistent basis is a massive undertaking that would monopolize IT teams’ time. With other team responsibilities, this doesn’t work. This is why teams and healthcare facilities benefit from analytics platforms.

AI-based platforms work 24/7 without pause and gather analytics just as easily for 50,000 devices as they do for 500. They process data much faster than humans, and can monitor the entire radio frequency (RF) environment rather than only managing a facility’s wired and wireless networks. The RF environment is where a WiFi network operates, and it consists of any nearby networks sharing the airspace as well as non-wireless devices like microwaves and medical equipment that can cause network interference. As this entire environment impacts the facility’s network, it needs to be factored into all analytics.

Not all analytics platforms provide historical data. When choosing a platform be sure to ask if historical analytics are continuous 24x7 versus time sliced which can miss critical data.

Optimized and reliable networks
The best analytics platform in the world can’t provide constant insights if the wireless and wired networks are consistently unreliable. Here’s how an AI-based platform can help healthcare facilities maintain strong WiFi performance.

Constant monitoring
Networks are dynamic. The RF environment in which they operate is constantly changing, and this means that IT teams require constant, complete visibility into the entire environment in order to ensure network optimization. This includes monitoring both WiFi spectrums, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, at all times.

As mentioned above, analytics platforms provide 24/7 monitoring so IT has instant access to the most up-to-date network information - as well as easily reviewable historical analytics, if the platform provides them. These real-time and historical analytics provide actionable insights for IT. This means that, in the case of a network issue, IT likely already has the information needed to identify and resolve the problem on hand. Rather than having to spend hours or days tracking down the root cause of the problem, IT can immediately move to resolution, restoring the network to optimum performance that much faster.

Scheduled network tests
Testing the network on a scheduled basis provides IT with advance notice of any issues that could cause problems for end users. This gives IT the ability to resolve problems proactively, which is especially important for healthcare when any disrupted network performance can negatively affect patients’ health.

Tests should be run no less than once a week , and running them hourly or daily is recommended.

Instant notifications
This is one of the best bonuses of an AI-based platform. Rather than simply monitoring and analyzing the network, these platforms can provide instant, automatic alerts if they detect any network issues - this includes because of a failed network test. Some platforms will even include root cause identification and suggested actions for resolution with the alert.

The platform can provide the alert because, thanks to its AI-engine and constant monitoring, it learns to recognize normal network behavior. If that behavior deviates in any way, the platform notifies IT for proactive, quick resolutions.

With this support, IT can focus on other mission-critical responsibilities, trusting that the network is optimized unless otherwise notified.

Historical analytics support present and future optimization
When it comes to planning strategically for the future, the most informed decisions are made with the best intelligence. That intelligence is provided with historical analytics. Facilities don’t have to view the network as a wildcard. Historical analytics provide the ability to look back in time and see how health and performance have changed and what caused the changes. Armed with this information, professionals can make the best investment decisions for the wireless network to support optimum health and performance into the future.

About the author: Roger Sands is the CEO and co-founder of Wyebot.