Improving Your Hospital's Wi-Fi Performance: 4 Challenges You Must Overcome 

By Jordan Abraham

With the hospital environment growing in complexity, and the need to ensure both compliance and reliability, it makes sense that your hospital's Wi-Fi performance is critical to everyone's success and well-being.

However, as we just stated, healthcare facilities are more complex than ever today, so getting it right is no easy task.

Typically, there are four main areas you have to address:

  • The physical environment
  • Devices
  • Applications
  • End-Users

Within these four areas, exists the qualities to either have robust performance or terrible performance.

So where should you start?

Here are four current challenges that every healthcare facility faces and how you can overcome them to improve your Wi-Fi performance.

Addressing the IoT

The internet of things has changed how we think about wireless networking across every industry, especially in healthcare.

From more traditional pieces of equipment like mobile medical carts, to refrigerators and even vending machines, almost anything and everything can be connected today.

Which adds a whole new layer of complexity to both network security and Wi-Fi performance.

This is not only due to the types of devices but also the increase in numbers as well.

Remember the Target data breach in 2013? That was said to have been through their HVAC system---a reminder that without the proper systems in place and a well thought out design, everything can potentially put your data at risk.

Security should be top priority when introducing any new devices onto your network. The rule is you should only give out exactly what they need, nothing more and nothing less.

Features like having a modern firewall and managing access to your network through role-based access control or NAC, help give you the visibility and control you need to promote both proper security and a reliable experience.

With new threats coming out almost daily, you should consider these questions when deploying IoT on your wireless network.

Supporting BYOD and Guest Access

Almost all healthcare facilities are facing the challenge of supporting some level of guest access as well as the increasing numbers of devices they don't own, or BYOD.

From your hospital staff accessing patient information on their smartphones and tablets, to patients and guests wanting to stream video and make calls over Wi-Fi, your wifi performance depends on how well you've taken these factors into consideration during the Wi-Fi engineering process.

BYOD and Guest Access should incorporate these 4 elements:

  • Network Access Control - NAC will help you to authenticate and on-board devices more efficiently and securely. You can also conduct device health checks and allow self-registration all through a centralized system. Check out this blog to read more about what NAC has to offer.
  • MDM - Doctors and nurses have access to confidential information, from previous medical records, to current vitals and ailments. Mobile device management or MDM allows you to control both the devices and applications being used. Furthermore it allows you to wipe a device if it is stolen, making sure none of the data capable of being leaked.
  • Solid Wired Infrastructure - Your wireless network is only as good as the wired infrastructure it sits on top of. It's critical that you've carefully addressed any choke points throughout your wired system to ensure the best performance possible. Start by looking at your switching to make sure you have the proper components in place to support what you're trying to do.
  • Proper WLAN Design - Your wireless network will last every 3-4 years tops, based on how fast devices change, applications change, security threats evolve etc. This means having the right wireless network design to support these changes. You can't just throw up new access points or more APs and think you're good. It takes experience and skill in order to make sure your network can support your requirements.

While the devices and applications being run on your wireless network are being managed, the entire WLAN design needs to be properly managed too. Using a NMS (network management system) or Wi-Fi management solution, your team will gain the ability to have real-time analytics at their fingertips, and be able to manage and adjust the network as needed.

Application Performance

With the differing types of applications out there these days, it’s harder to monitor which ones are impacting your network’s performance. Application prioritization allows you to control the which applications get priority service,  making sure your mission-critical applications get first dibs to your resources.

The two types of applications that run on your network:

  • Business applications
  • Recreational applications

What application prioritization does for your network, is shift throughput to necessary applications rather than allowing things to just run hog wild with no type of segmentation or control.

In order to have control and prioritize your apps you will need:

Application visibility - identify the application by a signature, your WLAN firewall should be able to perform this for you. It allows you to differentiate between different applications and apply policies to their use.

QoS & prioritization support - wired and wireless infrastructure will need the ability to identify, tag, hand-off and maintain QoS. If there isn't consistent support across the wireless and wired infrastructure it fails.

Suggested Reading: Specialized Test Hospitals Can Use to Improve Their Wi-Fi Performance

On-Going Management of Your Network

A WLAN design should incorporate a network management system or wifi management solution. Your WLAN is alive, and just like your patients things change daily. You need constant real time analytics and real time data usage.

An NMS will be able to collect and create insights into usable data, such as client location, movement tracking, RF “heat maps,” and other types of reports.

If you want to dive deeper into the importance of real-time analytics and usage data, take a look at this recent blog post.

In Conclusion

Properly addressing these 4 elements will provide you with a wireless platform that is built for optimal performance for the next 4 years. The results, more productive staff, lower costs from having more efficient processes and happier guests and patients from better care and a better experience.

At SecurEdge, we deliver affordable, robust, and secure wireless platforms – it’s all we do. If you have any questions about your hospital's current wifi performance or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.

hospital wireless network design, wireless technology in hospitals, hospital wlan design,
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