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Wednesday, 17 November 2021 10:27

Why Australian hospitals are turning to IP networks to power their operating rooms

By Claudio Cardile
Claudio Cardile, ANZ Managing Director, Barco Claudio Cardile, ANZ Managing Director, Barco

GUEST OPINION by Claudio Cardile, ANZ Managing Director, Barco:  As healthcare technology has evolved in recent years, hospital operating rooms have changed beyond recognition. Everything from scanners and probes to cameras and visual monitors have shifted from an analogue to a digital realm.

Much of this equipment needs to be interconnected to allow medical staff to access the information they require to complete the often-complex tasks needed for patient treatment. Traditionally, this interconnectivity has been achieved by using dedicated - and often proprietary - networking equipment.

This is not ideal in operating rooms that typically have multiple audio-visual (AV) sources including MRI’s, CT scanners, Cath/Vascular labs and C-arm units. Routing and displaying these multiple video sources, simultaneously, in high definition can create challenges.

Traditional copper cable-based AV systems have been used for many years to integrate sources, however they add delays to the system and increase cable clutter.

With a range of new healthcare tools emerging, and the arrival of technologies such as 4K, endoscopes, room cameras and 3D imaging, achieving reliable and secure connectivity is going to become even more challenging. Healthcare providers are realising that a new approach will be required.

The rise of IP networks

To overcome these connection challenges, increasing numbers of hospitals around the world are opting to deploy dedicated IP networks within their operating rooms.

Based on long-proven industry standards, these networks provide the ability to readily add new components without the need for complex re-configurations. They have already become the default option in major teaching metropolitan hospitals and are now being deployed in a greater proportion of regional hospitals.

To maintain network security and ensure optimum performance, operating room infrastructures should always run as an independent platform. And, given the sensitive nature of the healthcare applications that run on them, the network and all its components should also comply with requirements and be registered as medical devices by relevant local and international regulatory bodies.

In addition to this, hospitals should consider working with equipment vendors that are ISO27001 certified and continuously monitor privacy and security risks on their products.

These changes can also assist hospitals from a budgetary perspective. The overall investment cost for an IP video integration solution is significantly lower than for comparable AV systems. Although the initial investment cost might be slightly higher, this is almost immediately negated when taking into account all other costs including energy, modifications, expansion, disruption, and training.

The evolution of surgery

Modern surgery is increasingly involving minimally invasive procedures. This is a change that has been made possible by advances in medical technologies and instrumentation such as endoscopic cameras and surgical displays.

In these procedures the endoscope, combined with the chosen AV solution and surgical display, can be considered as an extension of the surgeon’s eyes. Greater use of IP networks will ensure that additional advances such as increased adoption of 4K (and later 8K) video can be put to best use and potentially save more lives.

Video-over-IP systems form the heart of connectivity. It also enables telestration, teleassistance, teleconferencing, and telementoring in a secure environment. This opens up the opportunity for greater real time collaboration and sharing of valuable insights and resources more readily.

With proactive maintenance, IP enables remote monitoring and troubleshooting, and asset management in delivering the best performance. Indeed, IP-based video integration in the operating room, also called “OR-over-IP”, has proven to reduce complexity in today’s operating rooms. It enables operating room to be easily adaptable and interchangeable to support expansion of technologies well into the future.

Digital operating rooms are now able to create optimal conditions that allow surgeons to do their best work, by delivering highly accurate images, and by providing the most ergonomic working conditions.

It’s clear that high-performance IP networks deliver significant benefits to a modern operating theatre. Hospitals will need to continue investing in the technology to ensure the standard of medical treatment they are delivering continues to be as high as possible.


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