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Faster wireless connections boost mHealth adoption

Healthcare professionals are eager consumers when it comes to the latest mobile offerings. Will their gadgets ever fully integrate into patient care?

With every announcement of a new mobile device, consumers anticipate new features and improved performance. Faster Internet connectivity is usually near the top of consumers' wish lists. Faster connections have facilitated greater mHealth adoption because they enable the use of mobile applications that previously could not run on Wi-Fi due to their speed requirements.

Connectivity continues to play an important role with many of the mobile devices entering the consumer market. For prospective buyers, a faster connection means better data streaming and an improved user experience. Connectivity can be boosted by connecting through the new IEEE 802.11ac wireless networking standard.

The speed of 802.11ac greatly exceeds that of the previous protocol, 802.11n. Theoretically, it can reach a max speed of 6,933 megabytes per second (MBps), or just shy of seven gigabytes per second. Cellular connectivity is improving too. It is now approaching speeds of 150 MBps in some of the newer devices equipped with Long Term Evolution support.

Physicians and other healthcare professionals have taken advantage of improved wireless connections by using their mobile devices and tablets more frequently to pull patients' charts, images, and educational media related to procedures or medical imaging studies.

The results of increased connectivity speeds aren't all positive. Users are likely to be on their devices more often and run up against data usage limits and restrictions imposed by their mobile providers. Exceeding these limits may lead to overages and cause users to pay extra on their monthly bill.

Faster connectivity enables more physicians to use their mobile devices to interact with mHealth apps that connect them to a lot more data. As speeds continue to increase, mobile app developers will be able to offer more rich content through their apps. Users should be aware that connecting to mHealth apps outside of the protected hospital wireless network is a definite security risk. For mHealth adoption to increase, along with mobile connectivity speeds, data protection on mobile devices must be a priority for developers and mobile device manufacturers.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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