Wireless Communications for the Hospital of the Future

In this conceptual paper, we discuss the concept of hospital of the future (HoF) and the requirements for its wireless connectivity. The HoF will be mostly wireless, connecting patients, healthcare professionals, sensors, computers and medical devices. Spaces of the HoF are first characterized in terms of communicational performance requirements. In order to fulfil the stringent requirements of future healthcare scenarios, such as enhanced performance, security, safety, privacy, and spectrum usage, we propose a flexible hybrid optical-radio wireless network to provide efficient, high-performance wireless connectivity for the HoF. We introduce the concept of connected HoF exploiting reconfigurable hybrid optical-radio networks. Such a network can be dynamically reconfigured to transmit and receive optical, radio or both signals, depending on the requirements of the application. We envisage that HoF will consist of numerous communication devices and hybrid optical-radio access points to transmit data using radio waves and visible light. Light-based communications exploit the idea of visible light communications (VLC), where solid-state luminaries, white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) provide both room illumination as well as optical wireless communications (OWC). The hybrid radio-optical communication system can be used in principle in every scenario of the HoF. In addition to the hybrid access, we also propose a reconfigurable optical-radio communications wireless body area network (WBAN), extending the conventional WBAN to more generic and highly flexible solution. As the radio spectrum is becoming more and more congested, hybrid wireless network approach is an attractive solution to use the spectrum more efficiently. The concept of HoF aims at enhancing healthcare while using hospital resources efficiently. The enormous surge in novel communication technologies such as internet of things (IoT) sensors and wireless medical communications devices could be undermined by spectral congestion, security, safety and privacy issues of radio networks. The considered solution, combining optical and radio transmission network could increase spectral efficiency, enhancing privacy while reducing patient exposure to radio frequency (RF). Parallel radio-optical communications can enhance reliability and security. We also discuss possible operation scenarios and applications that can be introduced in HoF as well as outline potential challenges.