I recently covered the announcement out of the West Wireless Health Institute that they were launching the West Wireless Health Council to pioneer the adoption of Medical Grade Wireless at hospitals and health systems across America.

The Council is managed by an all-star team of CIOs from leading providers and by all indications they have been very well received by the health care community and are well on their way to achieving their goal of ubiquitous adoption.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Marty Miller, CIO of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a member of the West Wireless Health Council Executive Committee, about the Council’s mission and how it plans to active its goals of bringing assurance to wireless communication inside hospitals as they ramp up adoption of connected medical devices. Read below to hear how they plan to bring this to other hospitals around the country.

When I interviewed Council member Eric Yablonka, CIO of University of Chicago Health System, prior to the mHealth Summit last December he told me, “Wired to wireless we want to leverage a common infrastructure because it’s more cost effective, it will lower the cost of delivering care–not increase the cost, and then you want to get a leveraging piece over on the infrastructure and the deployment, which is what we did at our Children’s hospital six or seven years ago.”

Just last month I spoke with West Wireless CMO Joe Smith and asked him about the Health Council and its mandate to bring Medical Grade Wireless to providers and why this is so important for the quality of care these institutions provide in the connected care age.

When you think about wireless health care applications, the FDA has a responsibility for approving that the devices themselves are safe and effective and merit use, and yet the FDA doesn’t control the wireless infrastructure in hospitals, and so the devices rely on something in order to function that the FDA doesn’t get a chance to regulate, so that gives them some pause when ensuring that the devices they regulate are actually going to function as they should. So the FDA likes this notion of having some level of assurance and utility-based standards. The hospitals very much like this notion of having some more or less standard they can refer to, and device manufacturers like knowing that there is some backdrop for the functionality of their devices, that there is some environment they can build to, so everyone has been looking to it but there hasn’t been a business model created for the development of such a thing so this was a perfect place for a non-profit like ours to step up.


BTE: How long have you been working with the West Health Council and how has the Council’s mission been received by the medical community?

Marty Miller: I believe we have been around now as a council for about a year, I was one of the original members, and I have worked in the past with several of the folks from West Wireless. The problem of risks associated with wireless Internet inside hospitals and health systems is one CIOs live with on a daily basis. With the proliferation of numerous new connected medical devices, CIOs actually own all of the risk associated with that new device, so if somebody wants to bring in a new smartphone the CIO has to make it work, and the same goes for all other potential wireless devices.

So thoughtful planning, combined with the right kind of governance structure has led to the ability at our institution to proactively plan, monitor and manage wireless infrastructure and deliver assurance of those critical biomedical applications. As I said before, I have had a lot of interaction with folks like Ed Cantwell at the West Wireless Health Institute for some time, as we walk down this journey together and try to answer the question of how to provide this assurance for medical applications inside the hospital.

In the weeks since we announced the Council, we have received an enormous unsolicited response from CIOs, CMIOs and CTOs who have reached out to us and said “we need to understand the work you guys are doing.” We made it public that we had developed a reference architecture for the delivery of wireless medical grade applications in a hospital environment that lowers their costs and improves their assurance.

I can say we are all getting emails, both the folks at West as well as those of us on the executive council, from individuals who want to connect with us to address this timely subject. Most of these institutions that are bringing in connected biomedical devices or allowing their physicians to use iPads, are struggling to provide that assurance level required for all applications across the continuum. So I think the response has been very encouraging.