Like most other industries hospital wireless networks have gone through a major transformation with the explosion of mobile devices and the expectations of “anywhere, anytime” internet access.
Hospital networks have transformed from physical, wired focused environments to newer wireless and cloud driven networks. These new hospital wireless networks have been designed to support things like EHRs (Electronic Health Records), BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and an ever growing list of automated systems and compliance requirements.
However, with new advances on the horizon like the IoT (Internet of Things), location-based solutions (RTLS), asset management and business intelligence, successful hospital networks will have to continue to upgrade and adapt their IT infrastructure in order to keep up.
To help you continue to get the most out of your hospital’s wireless infrastructure we’ve put together three critical tips to make sure you can effectively support the growing demands.
Guest Wi-Fi Access
Today’s patients and guests expect to have wireless access and expect it to be fast and secure. It’s a tall order when your focus is supporting your mission critical systems, users and applications.
However, what if I told you that patient satisfaction and the guest wifi experience was part of your mission critical mix, because the truth is, it is.
Like with BYOD, there are all kinds of different devices, all accessing the network to do different things, some are trying to stream YouTube or Netflix, others send email or check their Facebook account.
While this is all good, not planning for your guest’s or patient’s activity can cause serious issues. Not only can it limit proper connectivity to other users or systems but it can cause problems for your IT staff to support and even result in higher operational costs to maintain.
You have to plan and account for guest wifi access as its own beast. While it’s part of the same overall network its visibility should be transparent and your control over it should be instant and robust.
You should have the ability to detect who is trying to access the network, assign them the appropriate role and level of access and then enforce those policies in real-time from a central location (dashboard).
Suggested Reading: "Future of Network Access Control (NAC) on BYOD Networks"
For example, limiting bandwidth to guest users between specific hours or limiting guest bandwidth limits all together. You could even restrict streaming things like Netflix all together.
It’s about finding the right balance between your guest’s or patient’s satisfaction or experience and what makes sense to support your mission critical operations.
Compliance and Security
It seems like there is a new data breach in the news almost every other day and a lot of the times it’s from a hospital.
Patient data, guest data and your hospital’s data are all critical areas you can’t afford to leave unprotected. With HIPAA and other compliance requirements a constant factor in the hospital environment it’s critical you have the right security strategy in place to avoid any violations.
Your network should consider a next-generation firewall as well as a strategy to keep up with the latest security best practices and standards.
With many doctors and staff using their own devices it’s important you set guidelines for the level of access they have to patient data, and it’s especially important to make sure those personal devices are secure to avoid a data breach.
You have to set clear security policies that everyone understands and follows. Proper security in the hospital environment is dependent upon:
- Being proactive and always planning ahead
- Having the right security infrastructure in place
- Setting clear security policies
- Having real-time visibility and control
- Utilizing a central management system
- Understanding compliance standards
Mobile Devices, Equipment and The Internet of Things
Let’s face it, there’s more devices, more machines and more, well, everything connected or trying to access your hospital’s network than ever before.
Everything from your HVAC systems, to insulin pumps and glucose monitors, to iPads, smart phones, smart beds, and even wearables are connected.
The worst and best part about this new connected hospital environment is that were only at the beginning.
Your network that was once designed and built to handle maybe a handful of devices is now being tasked to support (securely) thousands of smart devices and “sensor-enabled” machines.
It’s critical that your network is prepared to keep up and handle these increasing demands and it starts with proper planning and the right design.
Many hospitals are going to or already have gone to an 802.11ac based system, giving them the needed ability to handle larger amounts of traffic and even larger amounts of data without the fear of getting slowed down to the point of crashing.
Another area that has to be mentioned is business intelligence. With all of these machines and devices being connected to your network means there’s a lot of available data. The trick is accessing that data and turning it into actionable insights.
Deploying business intelligence systems will be a critical component for every hospital interested in increasing their operational efficiency and driving down costs by allowing hospital executives to make smarter, faster decisions based on having better information.
In today’s hospital environments supporting your users and mission critical systems starts with your foundation, which in this case is your wireless and network infrastructure.
However, it doesn’t stop there, to get the most out of your network and to maximize your operational efficiency requires intelligence. Successful hospitals today and in the future will be based on who can use real-time data to drive actionable results.
If you have any questions about how to design a high performing, intelligent hospital wireless network please contact us here.