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4 Challenges That BYOD Pose to Hospital Wireless Networks

BYOD has been a component of College and University network environments for years and is an expectation there. It has not however traditionally been that way for hospital wireless networks. That has now changed. 

BYOD in hospitals

Doctors and even nurses are expecting to use devices they are comfortable with in their day to day responsibilities. Doctors are finding loads of apps that do more than just record dictation. Nurses are asking to get their smart phones and tablets on the network so they can better manage their shifts and use apps suited for their fields of expertise.
Due to this demand hospital administrators have to examine areas of their infrastructure that may be overburdened with the BYOD deluge.

Here are some areas you may or may not have thought to look at that we are recommending based on real world experience.

1. Bandwidthbandwidth sharing

• Do you have a secure wireless network that can provide the bandwidth per AP that all these devices are going to need? Remember that wireless is a shared medium so plan for how many users per AP are needed and error on the high side!

• Does your wired network have enough bandwidth? With AP’s capable of 900Mbps and coming soon 1.6Gbps don’t let your 10/100Mbps switches be the bottleneck.

• How about your Internet pipe? All the apps are Internet based so you are going to have loads more outbound traffic than you ever had before. Look at purchasing more bandwidth on your service and think about buying a DSL or cable service to split out the Guest access to.

2. Security

• You will need to authenticate the BYOD devices somehow and maintain visibility into who the user is. A Pre-Shared key network will not provide this. Look into using 802.1x as your authentication method with either certificates or username & password for authentication.

• Separation of devices and users into roles is going to be imperative. Make sure you can derive roles for the users (Doctor, Nurse, IT, & Contractor) and their devices based on

wireless network security

 attributes derived from the directory database or from their method of authentication.

• Roles are important but worthless unless you can do something with them. Access policies maintained with an integrated firewall are in my opinion a necessity in this event. Firewalling users based on their role; Doctor, Nurse or Contractor, allows for controlled access to networks and resources and maintains HIPAA compliance.

3. Support

• Do you have staff that are able to support the devices that will be used by your users? The variety and types of devices should be limited and standardization done. Otherwise your support staff are going to get overwhelmed. If they only have to know 6 device types or models it will be lots easier than a dozen.

• Is your staff up to date on wireless technologies and can they support the increased demand on the WLAN? Make sure they attend vendor training and are trained in troubleshooting wireless issues.

hospital wireless• Do you have a solution in place to support your BYOD policy? Look into implementing a policy manager that enforces what is laid out in your BYOD policy. Some things to consider enforcing are; how to say yes to one type of device and no to another, or how do you limit how many devices a user can use, and how do you make exceptions for say a Chief surgeon’s tablet of choice but still exclude others from using this out of policy device type?

4. Management

• How will you manage access to Hospital applications and programs? Think of a mobile device management (MDM) application that provides control of this. Some even turn off the camera when at the Hospital or shut off access to applications when the device leaves the Hospital. How about if the device is lost or stolen? MDM applications can remotely wipe the device of any data or access to the Hospital.

• The WLAN is going to need some monitoring and management as well. With the surge of BYOD devices being brought onto the network you will need to keep a closer eye on the performance of your WLAN. A good WLAN management tool will provide the following; reporting on usage, alerting on events, visualization of the RF environment, troubleshooting of the network and clients, and a way to track the movements and locations of your devices in the Hospital.

The BYOD phenomenon is new but not a fad. It is here to stay and is going to challenge even the best IT administrator. Don’t waste your energy trying to stop it because it will most likely steam roll you.

The team here at SecurEdge Networks is made up of professionals who have helped many clients through their BYOD challenges and can help you with yours. Contact us here and see how we can answer these challenges for you. 


Michael McNamee

Michael is the Practice Manager of Security and Mobility at SecurEdge Networks. A true Wi-Fi “Guru”, he has an incredible ability at solving the most challenging wireless mess and then helping you understand it all.