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The Best Way to Improve Cell Signal Inside Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

The Best Way to Improve Cell Signal Inside Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Written by Alejandra Jasso
10th May 2021

Whether your healthcare institution has already adopted or is considering cellular technology to further improve patient care and enhance productivity, there is one common challenge that most healthcare institutions face…bad cell service.

Keep reading to find out why it’s important to have a reliable cellular connection inside hospitals and healthcare facilities, as well as how cell phone signal boosters can help improve cellular connectivity for the healthcare industry.

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Why Is There No Signal Inside Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities?

There can be multiple reasons for poor cellular reception inside hospital buildings and other healthcare facilities, but the two main reasons are building material and location.

Most hospitals and healthcare facilities are constructed out of steel, concrete, and brick, coupled with thick walls and energy-efficient windows. These materials are infamous for blocking and reflecting cellular signals. Useable signal might be available close to the windows and the outer part of the facility, but due to internal building martial, the mobile signal diminishes the deeper into the building one gets.

Then there’s location. Some facilities are farther away from cell towers, and others deal with difficult terrain. Cellular signal weakens the farther it travels – even more so if the signal waves encounter obstacles along the way, like trees, hills, mountains, etc. By the time it reaches the building, the construction material can completely kill the remainder of the signal, turning the inside of the building into a dead zone.

Take the St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in Idaho as an example. It had decent cell phone reception outside – about 3 to 4 bars of service. But a mountain created a natural signal barrier on one side of the building. On top of that, the hospital’s building material weakened and blocked cellular signal from entering the building. Once inside, cell coverage was limited or nonexistent.

Why Should Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Improve In-Building Cellular Signals?

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Journal mentions that poor communication between doctors, nurses, and all medical professionals leads to longer patient stays, slower recovery, or can have far more serious consequences. In addition, The Joint Commission Center claims that about 80% of medical errors occur due to "miscommunication between caregivers during the transfer of patients."

Improving in-building cellular signal in key areas of hospital and healthcare buildings will improve communication between medical staff, enhance patient safety and care by decreasing medical errors, allow doctors and nurses to quickly access patient files through secure mobile EHR (electronic health record) apps from anywhere in the building, and so much more.

Plus, doctors and physicians are the backbone of efficient healthcare facilities. To attract and to keep the best doctors in your hospital, you must cater to technologies they use to make their job as efficient and effective as possible. A study by Zebra revealed that about 98% of physicians will be using mobile devices by 2022.

Without consistent cell service, doctors and nurses are left to rely on pagers, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) devices, and WiFi, which, as you may already know, all have drawbacks.

  • Pagers - Are effective at receiving messages in areas where cellular or WiFi is not available, but are not the most efficient for two-way communication. The recipient has to locate a phone to call the appropriate number or physically find the sender, which could take a while in large care facilities leading to productivity loss.
  • VoIP - Allows doctors, nurses, and staff to send and receive calls and text messages, as well as access videos and download files through the facility's WiFi network. For optimal performance a reliable broadband connection with high bandwidth availability is necessary. Otherwise, the phone call will drop, the text will not send, the videos will not load, and the mobile EHR apps will not open. Communication will suffer in areas where the WiFi signal is particularly poor or nonexistent.
  • WiFi - WiFi networks have limited range and can be easily overloaded with so many devices connected to the internet 24/7. Doctors and nurses will struggle downloading and uploading critical patient information into mobile EHR apps and WiFi calling and texting will be negatively impacted in WiFi dead zones and during times of high data usage.

If a doctor can’t be reached through their pager, VoIP, or WiFi-based device, the only other option is a PA (Public Address) system. How many curial minutes are lost before the announcement is made? How would this affect your hospital’s reputation, the work environment, and the patients' healthcare experience?

A cellular signal booster inside your healthcare facility will enhance 5G (with select models), 4G LTE, and 3G signals in specific areas or the whole building – just depends on your specific needs. As a result, medical staff will no longer have to stress when a doctor can’t be reached, and doctors can easily respond to messages and calls from anywhere in the building – maximizing everyone's time. In addition, a consistent and strong cellular signal will help offload congestion from the WiFi network, improving speeds for all connected devices.

Enhanced Patient Care via Telemedicine

Reliable cellular signal will also help enhance patient care by increasing face time between patients and doctors. A time-motion study, by AMA (American Medical Association) and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Care System, found that for every hour of face-to-face time a physician gets with a patient, nearly two additional hours are spent on EHR data entries and other clerical desk work throughout one day. With cellular technology, much of the paperwork can be automated and patient records can easily be accessed and modified from anywhere, which can free up much of a physician's time to build relationships with their patients.

Plus, with the recent move to a more virtual world with telemedicine, consistent connection is more important than ever. With a hospital full of doctors performing dozens of patient consultations simultaneously, having a weak cellular network is a major liability in case the WiFi should get overloaded.

Cellular Signal Benefits for Doctors, Physicians, Nurses, and All Medical Staff Members

  • Promote constant real-time two-way communication between nurses, doctors, and all healthcare employees from anywhere in the building. In addition, doctors and physicians can easily consult with other healthcare professionals in other facilities.
  • Reduce medical errors due to lack of communication.
  • Cellular technology can be used alongside telemedicine (aka telehealth or m-health) to improve communication between doctors and patients without being in the same room.
  • Allow doctors and nurses to quickly pull up patient files, test results, medical images, and more from the palm of their hands.
  • Provide a better work environment for all healthcare employees, especially doctors and physicians.
  • Doctors and physicians can dedicate more of their time to patients rather than spending countless hours on EHR data entries and clerical work.
  • Improve productivity as it won’t be lost due to pagers, dead zones, or WiFi congestion.
  • Improve resource management and patient care.

Cellular Signal Benefits for Patients, Outpatients, and Visitors

  • Allow patients and visitors to keep family and friends updated on test results and procedures, especially now in 2021 where coronavirus patients are isolated from loved ones.
  • Help patients and visitors overcome language barriers if a translator is not available by downloading and using translation applications like Google Translate.
  • Allow patients and visitors to research terms and procedures they don’t understand to feel comfortable.
  • Help patients and visitors pass the time while waiting for their appointment, test results, or to meet a new family member, opposed to aimlessly staring at white walls or flipping through boring magazines.
  • Patients can communicate with doctors through phone calls, video chats, and text messages when they can't physically visit a doctor's office.

How to Improve Cell Signal Inside Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities?

The most reliable way to significantly reduce or eliminate weak signal inside healthcare facilities is by investing in a Distributed Antenna System (DAS). A Distributed Antenna System is a system of nodes or antennas that are strategically distributed throughout the building to improve cellular coverage inside any healthcare facility. There are two types of DAS: Active and Passive.

Active Distributed Antenna System (Active DAS)

Active DAS are directly connected to a carrier’s core network (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint), making them more powerful than a Passive DAS. They use fiber optic cables or ethernet cables to convert analog radio frequency signals into digital. This allows for longer cable runs, which help provide wall-to-wall coverage.

However, Active DAS requires expensive equipment to intergrade, making it 10x more expensive than a Passive DAS - it costs about $5 - $10 per sq ft. In addition, it can take several months to several years to deploy due to acquiring carrier permissions and complex installations.

Carrier permissions are required from each carrier whose signal you wish to improve inside the healthcare facility. The carrier approval process can take a minimum of 6 months per carrier. Additionally, the installation for an Active DAS is much more complex. If fiber optic cables aren’t already in place, they will need to be installed – increasing cost and installation time.

Active DAS are generally best in extremely large high-traffic buildings and those with no outside signal.

Passive Distributed Antenna System (Passive DAS)

Many hospitals are turning to Passive DAS since they are very customizable, reliable, and cost-effective, such as the CHOC Children's Hospital in California and CHI St. Luke's Memorial Hospital in Texas.

Passive DAS, also known as a cell phone signal booster, use one or multiple donor antennas (omnidirectional or unidirectional) to send and receive radio frequency signals from nearby cell towers. Since the booster system is picking up off-the-air signals rather than directly from the carriers’ core networks, carrier permissions are not needed and expensive equipment is not utilized, decreasing installation times and cost. The installing process can take a few weeks to a few months and will cost between $0.50 - $1 per sq ft.

Existing outside signal is required for a Passive DAS to work. The signal captured by the outside antenna is sent to the signal amplifier or repeater via coaxial cables for boosting. The boosted signal is then broadcasted by the internal antennas (panel or dome) into the desired areas to provide consistent coverage for all mobile phones and cellular devices across all carriers. The result? A significant decrease in dropped calls and unsent messages, faster response times between medical staff, better communication across all departments, and happy patients, visitors, doctors, and nurses.

Keep in mind though, that the strength of the outside signal will determine how much coverage the signal booster will provide. If your healthcare facility is in an area with weak outside signal, you may need a stronger amplifier - a cell phone signal amplifier and DAS system expert will help you choose the best system for your needs.

Passive DAS are generally best for hospitals and healthcare facilities that have cellular signals outside and want to improve cellular coverage throughout the whole building or specific areas.

Cellular Signal Booster Zoned Approach

Are there areas in your hospital or healthcare facility where cell phone use is prohibited, such as operating rooms, radiology, or ICU? Worried a signal enhancing system will encourage, hospital staff members, visitors, and patients to use their mobile devices in said areas, potentially interfering with medical equipment? Don't be.

As mentioned, signal booster systems are 100% customizable - they can be scaled to your needs.

Professional installers will visit your hospital to understand your building's unique design, current signal coverage, and find out which areas you'd like better coverage in. With that information, a custom system design will be built to improve cell signal in waiting rooms, offices, hallways, and all key areas, while making sure cellular-free zones remain untouched.

Commercial Signal Boosters (Passive DAS) for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Wilson Pro 1100 - 460147
Wilson Pro 1100 - 460147

Best for small/medium healthcare facilities.

Contact Us For Pricing
  • 5G-capable
  • Up to 35,000 sq ft of coverage
  • Up to +70 dB of gain, with +25 dBm uplink and 15 dBm downlink
  • Works with multiple cellular devices across all carriers
  • LCD touch screen for greater usability
  • Expansion kits available to extend coverage

The WilsonPro 1100 is a leader in the space of power and performance. It’s designed for extremely rural and urban applications.

With up to +25 dBm uplink and 15 dBm downlink output powers, it can communicate with far distanced cell towers and cover areas of up to 35,000 sq ft under perfect conditions. Depending on your outside signal strength, it's likely you'll get between 15,000 – 20,000 sq ft.

It features XDR (eXtended Dynamic Range) technology allowing the booster to automatically adjust its gain and prevent the booster from overloading. The LCD screen allows for easy frequency band customization, troubleshoot, access performance, and more.

If you’re looking for a powerful unit that offers versatility, the WilsonPro 1100 is a no-brainer.

WilsonPro 1300 - 460149
WilsonPro 1300 - 460149

Best for medium/large multi-story hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Contact Us For Pricing
  • 5G-capable
  • Up to 40,000 sq ft of coverage
  • Up to +70 dB of gain, with +26 dBm uplink and 17 dBm downlink
  • Works with multiple cellular devices across all carriers
  • LCD touch screen for an enhanced user experience
  • Monitor system through the WilsonPro Cloud via LTE or WiFi
  • XDR technology to prevent signal overload
  • Three outdoor antenna ports to communicate with multiple carrier towers
  • Expansion kits available to extend coverage

The WilsonPro Enterprise 1300 is amongst the most powerful commercial-grade signal boosters for medium to large healthcare facilities.

Just like the Pro 1100, this unit is ideal for buildings in extremely rural or urban areas. With its increased uplink and downlink outputs, it has greater reach and provides a wider coverage area than the Pro 1100.

Under perfect conditions, this unit is capable of covering up to 40,000 sq ft. However, since coverage is determined by how strong or weak your outside signal is, a more realistic coverage estimate would be between 15,000 to 20,000 sq ft.

To help maximize coverage for every carrier, it features three outdoor antenna ports. Each antenna can pick up different frequency bands from different towers to collectively amplify cell signals for multiple carriers. And with XDR technology, you are guaranteed constant signal uptime without experiencing system shutdowns due to signal overload.

The booster’s performance can be remotely monitored through the WilsonPro Cloud using WiFi or LTE. In addition, the color LCD screen offers information on outdoor antenna optimization, performance, and more.

The Wilson Pro Enterprise 1300 comes in either a wall-mount or rack-mount version and can be customized to fit your needs.

WilsonPro 4300 - 460152
WilsonPro 4300 - 460152

Most powerful booster for large commercial properties

Contact Us For Pricing
  • 5G-capable
  • Up to 100,000 sq ft of coverage
  • Up to +70 dB of gain, with +26 dBm uplink and 17 dBm downlink
  • Works with multiple cellular devices across all carriers
  • LCD touch screen for an enhanced user experience
  • Monitor system through the WilsonPro Cloud vis LTE or WiFi
  • XDR technology to prevent signal overload
  • Four independent indoor antenna ports
  • Three outdoor antenna ports to communicate with multiple carrier towers
  • Expansion kits available to extend coverage

The Wilson Pro Enterprise 4300 is hands down the most powerful commercial signal booster kit in the market. Instead of one amplifier, the Enterprise 4300 houses four independent amplifiers in one unit.

It’s capable of covering up to 100,000 sq ft. However, buildings with decent to poor outside signal will most likely get 40,000 – 60,000 sq ft of coverage.

Similar to the Enterprise 1300, this unit features up to three outdoor antennas. When installed properly, each antenna can pick up different frequency bands to amplify signals from multiple towers. Unlike the Enterprise 1300, the Enterprise 4300 also features up to four independent indoor antennas ports – each equipped with up to 17 dBm downlink. This allows for wider in-building signal coverage and decreases signal loss due to fewer cable runs.

Through the WilsonPro Cloud, you're able to remotely monitor the booster's performance, make adjustments to the system, receive updates on your phone, and so much more.

The Wilson Pro 4300 comes in either a rack-mount unit for IT closets or a wall-mount unit.

Who are You, and How Can You Help My Hospital Get the Signal It Needs?

We’re Wilson Amplifiers, and we’ve been improving cellular signal in building since 2011. Depending on the size, scope, and situation, our experts can tailor a custom solution for you in time, under budget, and with a professional installation.

Services we provide:

  • FREE consultation adhering to your requirements and budgets.
  • Floor plan analysis with detailed heatmaps & coverage expectations.
  • Equipment selection from only the best.
  • Site survey from certified wireless technicians.
  • Professional installation & expert project management.

For more information on how our services have helped other businesses, check out our ase studies.

Contact us today to get the best solution for improving your cellular signal indoors.

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