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VA hospital in Jackson, Miss., plans patient Wi-Fi system

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The Jackson, Miss., Veterans Affairs Department hospital plans to install a Wi-Fi system for patients and guests, following similar plans by VA hospitals in Denver and Augusta, Ga.

The Jackson hospital said last Thursday that it needs a vendor to install and operate the Wi-Fi system, which will use 42 access points to cover the 163-bed facility.

The statement of work for the Jackson installation makes clear the hospital considers Wi-Fi an essential service for patients and their guests. The network will be paid for out of the VA budget.

In June 2010, Roger Baker, VA's chief information officer, said he was considering various business models to pay for Wi-Fi systems, including advertising-funded installation and operation, and pay-as-you-go plans.

The Jackson hospital anticipates a truly broadband patient Wi-Fi network, with download speeds of 20 megabits per second and upload speeds of 10 megabits per second, with a high-speed Ethernet backbone. Home networks typically operate at 7 megabits down and 850 kilobits up.

The patient network must be “air-gapped” to avoid interfering with VA Wi-Fi networks that support the medical staff, according to the Jackson hospital.

VA plans to upgrade Wi-Fi installations in 111 of its hospitals to support medical applications, including Real-Time Location Systems to track supplies. 

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