Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) have emerged as a viable technology for a vast number of applications, including health care applications. To best support these health care applications, WSN technology can be adopted for the design of practical Health Care WSNs (HCWSNs) that
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Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) have emerged as a viable technology for a vast number of applications, including health care applications. To best support these health care applications, WSN technology can be adopted for the design of practical Health Care WSNs (HCWSNs) that support the key system architecture requirements of reliable communication, node mobility support, multicast technology, energy efficiency, and the timely delivery of data. Work in the literature mostly focuses on the physical design of the HCWSNs (e.g., wearable sensors, in vivo
embedded sensors, et cetera
). However, work towards enhancing the communication layers (i.e
., routing, medium access control, et cetera
) to improve HCWSN performance is largely lacking. In this paper, the information gleaned from an extensive literature survey is shared in an effort to fortify the knowledge base for the communication aspect of HCWSNs. We highlight the major currently existing prototype HCWSNs and also provide the details of their routing protocol characteristics. We also explore the current state of the art in medium access control (MAC) protocols for WSNs, for the purpose of seeking an energy efficient solution that is robust to mobility and delivers data in a timely fashion. Furthermore, we review a number of reliable transport layer protocols, including a network coding based protocol from the literature, that are potentially suitable for delivering end-to-end reliability of data transmitted in HCWSNs. We identify the advantages and disadvantages of the reviewed MAC, routing, and transport layer protocols as they pertain to the design and implementation of a HCWSN. The findings from this literature survey will serve as a useful foundation for designing a reliable HCWSN and also contribute to the development and evaluation of protocols for improving the performance of future HCWSNs. Open issues that required further investigations are highlighted.