As is the case in so many venues and applications, healthcare settings — which include hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics and other facilities — require carefully planned and robust Wi-Fi implementation. Organizations need thorough coverage, from waiting areas to treatment rooms.
An appropriate, functional and secure Wi-Fi infrastructure reaps numerous benefits for healthcare organizations: operational cost savings, convenience that enhances productivity, and the ability to support whatever capabilities staff and patients alike require.
Check out these tips on how to get the most out of Wi-Fi in any healthcare setting.
1. Consider Facility Construction and Materials
Healthcare facilities are notorious for using building materials that impede radio waves; radiology departments in particular.
Pay special attention to these locations in your informal coverage analysis. Additionally, locate access points or user devices away from medical devices, which may emit potentially strong interference or be impaired by Wi-Fi traffic. Similarly, keep in mind that Wi-Fi radios are unlicensed, meaning they can operate without onerous regulation, but also suffer performance degradation from other equipment operating nearby. Use a small handheld spectrum analyzer or a software spectrum analysis application on a PC to isolate these common Wi-Fi challenges.
2. Think Capacity, Not Just Coverage for Healthcare Wi-Fi
Coverage assurance does not necessarily require a formal site survey, given the high-performance features of today’s Wi-Fi technologies like beamforming and multiple input, multiple output.
Still, just to make sure, APs should be temporarily installed when designing an installation, to obtain real-world, signal-strength measurements in locations where coverage is required. Even more important: Ensure that provisioned network capacity addresses the mix of applications in use. Review current network management logs and projections for traffic going forward to determine the right number of APs and appropriate system settings for parameters such as channel bandwidth, thus assuring sufficient capacity.
3. Select Compatible Network Endpoint Devices
In general, it’s best to obtain the latest Wi-Fi technologies (currently, Wave 2 of IEEE 802.11ac) when purchasing new equipment. This goes for both APs and client devices.
But many Wi-Fi-equipped medical devices — developed for long, useful lives — are based on older Wi-Fi technologies and cannot be upgraded to newer standards. Operate such devices on their own channels; older technologies can slow devices operating on newer standards. In general, it’s a good idea to have obsolescence plans for any equipment operating on standards before 802.11n.
4. Assess Your Hospital Network's Security Level
Security, by nature, will always be a moving target as new threats and challenges appear.
Given the demanding security requirements in healthcare, including those outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, conduct an ongoing, end-to-end analysis of security. Most Wi-Fi management consoles today contain extensive security capabilities. Still, look into analytics tools to cover all the security bases.