Finnish health IT startup’s proactive approach helps hospitals stay connected all the time
With so many connected devices, a working wireless network is an absolute necessity for medical facilities.
So network managers at hospitals shouldn’t rely on the people who use connected devices and computers to tell them when there are connectivity problems, said Veli-Pekka Ketonen, the founder and chief technology officer of health IT company 7signal. “Now, they are monitoring mostly the equipment providing the service at the access point, but they are not monitoring the actual service.”
That’s the gap 7signal wants to fill with its first offering, Sapphire, a wireless quality assurance system designed to run on top of hospitals’ wireless networks. It lets a network manager monitor the connection quality for end users, bring visibility to connectivity problems so they can be worked out before they affect devices and programs.
Ketonen explained that with applications like heart monitors, patient records and nurse call systems rely on wireless LAN networks, these connections should be watched more carefully and more proactively. “Now that cables aren’t in place anymore and applications have to rely solely on LAN networks, that’s not an option and (wireless) has to just work,” he said. “Measuring and monitoring the network is one thing that you really have to do.”
7signal doesn’t have your typical startup story. The company formed in Finland in 2006 and came to the U.S. only two years ago in an arrangement made through a collaboration between the city of Akron, Ohio and Helsinski Business and Science Park in Finland. Its U.S. headquarters is housed at the Akron Global Business Accelerator.
Ketonen, a former program manager at Nokia Systems, said that Finland used to be No. 1 in wireless network technology, but has fallen a bit behind. Electronic medical records and wireless networks are being rolled out in hospitals there, but they don’t have many applications running on them yet. “In the U.S., all those things are already there,” he said. “I think there is something like a two- to three-year gap between the markets in Finland and U.S.”
For the past two years, the company has been working on getting traction in the U.S. and making a name for itself. In 2011, it tested its software solution at Akron General Medical Center and Akron Children’s Hospital. With some customers, Ketonen said, it has delivered customers a 100 percent to 300 percent improvement in their network’s performance.
For now, 7signal is focused on delivering its solution to hospitals and universities, which have hundreds or even thousands of access points for wireless connectivity. “Medical and hospitals, that’s the most critical use of wireless LAN you can think of,” Ketonen said. “There are lot of devices there, even doctors’ iPads and iPhones.”
The healthcare industry spends a reported $9 billion a year on staying connected, so the company is targeting a huge market. Another thing working in its favor is ISO 80001, a recently established standard that defines the process and requirements for risk management of medical devices and systems on the IT network.
“Instead of leaving it there and hoping it works, that will be far from sufficient in the future,” Ketonen said. “Proactivity to remove issues is becoming the standard way of working,”