Hospital wireless networks, in my humble (but accurate) opinion, are the most complex wireless environments that exist when it comes to indoor WLAN deployment.
I had lunch with one of our medical customers yesterday and I listened as they described all of the different wireless devices that are coming online in the next six months. It’s staggering the number of things they have to manage, and not just systems themselves. They described challenges with compliance reporting, new buildings coming online, construction plans for five years from now, small support staff, and more. It validated my thinking that the medial world has the most complex indoor wireless environment…and perhaps the most challenging support environment.
I can’t speak as intelligently on the work environment, so let me tell you why I think the medical wireless is the most complex for indoor WLANs and a nightmare for many IT Administrators:
1) Wireless Medical Devices- many of the critical medical systems inside the hospital are going wireless. Insulin pumps, clinical refrigerators, even time clocks are being imbedded with Wifi chipsets. The medical IT staff has to keep these systems up at all times, including evenings and weekends.
2) Wifi-VoIP Communications- we have one customer with 800+ Wifi enabled VoIP handsets for their nursing staff. There is no room for downtime when it comes to serving patients and clinical communications.
3) Savvy and Demanding Users- Doctors in general are used to using technology. I heard a statistic that 40% of doctors had an iPad within 12 months of the iPad being released. If there is a new wireless device, many of them will have it, and they’ll want it to work on the hospital network.
4) Compliance- most people in the medial industry are familiar with the HIPAA laws. But hospitals have to deal with PCI compliance for credit card processing as well. The IT staff has to build bullet-proof wireless infrastructure, while maintaining the highest level of security……and be able to prove it when audit time comes around.
5) Constant Change- a hospital has constant movement….of everything. Large metal structures, cabinets, machines, and people all change the wireless environment in real time. It also has a number of other competing wireless systems that can mess up medical Wi-Fi networks. We recently had a wireless system get blown out on an entire floor, after trouble shooting with spectrum analysis tools; the culprit was a building elevator system gone haywire. You have to be able to adapt and troubleshoot in real time.
If you’re an IT administrator supporting wireless inside a medical facility, you’ve got a very tough job my friend. At SecurEdge, we’ve developed an entire practice around helping you plan, deploy, and support hospital wireless networks.
If we can help you, feel free to contact us here or download our free wireless design guide. Good luck!