Hospitals rely on a wide array of services, delivered across the wired and wireless networks. Discover the essential factors to consider when designing a reliable and secure Wi-Fi network for hospitals.
Hospital Wi-Fi: Support Multiple use Cases
The first consideration for hospitals is the big one - what do you actually want to do with your network?
Installing a clinical grade Wi-Fi network if no small investment, so it pays to make the early decision on what you actually want to do with the network. There's a range of options:
- Patient Guest Access
- Corporate Laptops
- Location Services
- Sensors, IoT
From providing internet access to patients and visitors to enabling seamless communication between medical staff, a well-designed hospital Wi-Fi can greatly enhance the overall experience within the healthcare facility.
Whether it is for accessing medical records (iEMR), streaming educational videos, or facilitating telemedicine services, a robust and reliable Wi-Fi network is essential for delivering these use cases.
Another important aspect to consider is the increasing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices being used in hospitals. More and more prevalent in hospitals is the connection of biomedical equipment - which typically need a great Wi-Fi experience to operate seamlessly.
These devices rely on a secure and stable Wi-Fi connection to function effectively, making it crucial to design a network that can accommodate the growing number of IoT devices.
Hospitals have Unique Wi-Fi Requirements
Hospital Wi-Fi has unique requirements that must be taken into account during the design process.
Firstly, it is crucial to ensure seamless coverage throughout the entire hospital, including patient rooms, waiting areas, operating rooms, and even outdoor spaces. Give consideration to your use cases here too - if you are deploying patient monitoring over Wi-Fi, you need good Wi-Fi in places patients will be - including all toilets and bathrooms.
A reliable Wi-Fi network should be able to provide uninterrupted connectivity regardless of the location within the facility.
Additionally, hospitals deal with sensitive and confidential patient data, making network security a top priority. Designing a Wi-Fi network with strong security measures, such as encryption protocols and access controls, is essential to protect patient privacy and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Some use cases (imaging is the main one) within a hospital, mean the Wi-Fi service must be able to handle high bandwidth demands.
Medical professionals often rely on real-time video conferencing, remote monitoring, and other data-intensive applications. Designing a network that can support these bandwidth-intensive tasks is required to ensure smooth and efficient workflow within the hospital.
Clinical Grade Wi-Fi
The heading of this section is "Clinical Grade Wi-Fi" - however, that's only the question - the actual grade you deploy will depend on your use case.
One of the key considerations when designing hospital Wi-Fi is ensuring seamless coverage throughout the entire facility. Patients, visitors, and medical staff should have access to a strong and reliable Wi-Fi signal regardless of their location within the hospital.
Typically the choice is one of the following:
- Data Grade: Good for laptops
- Voice Grade: Good for low powered devices, including Wi-Fi phones
- RTLS-10 Grade: Location awareness to approximate accuracy of sub 10m
- RTLS-5 Grade: Location awareness to approximate accuracy of sub 5m
- Patient Monitoring Grade: Used typically only in cardiac wards, for support of Drager M300 and Philips MX40
You might deploy different grades in the hospital, but typically do not mix grades on one floor.
Access points should be strategically placed to provide optimal coverage, taking into account factors such as building materials, interference from medical equipment, and the layout of the facility.
Additionally, implementing technologies like mesh networking can help extend the Wi-Fi coverage by creating a network of interconnected access points that work together to provide seamless connectivity (good for car parks, or connecting another building on campus).
Integrating Network Security
The security of patient data is of utmost importance in a hospital setting.
Designing a Wi-Fi network is more than just the Wi-Fi RF design - integration of strong security measures are essential to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and potential cyber threats.
One of the key security measures to implement is strong encryption protocols, such as WPA2 or WPA3 (preferable), to ensure that data transmitted over the Wi-Fi network is encrypted and secure.
Access controls should also be put in place to restrict unauthorized access to the network. For internal devices, the recommendation is to use certificates on those devices, allowing you to authenticate the device, then the user onto the device.
Regular network monitoring and security audits should be conducted to identify and address any vulnerabilities or potential risks. It is also important to educate staff and users about best practices for network security, such as using strong passwords and avoiding connecting to unsecured networks.
Designing Hospital Wi-Fi: Summary
When designing a hospital Wi-Fi network, it is important to consider a wide range of factors. You need to understand the future services your network will support in order to design the RF correctly, as well as the range of SSIDs and other features to be integrated.
Future expansion and scalability should also be a consideration. 6GHz a major area in which Wi-Fi has evolved, so you should consider designs that include this extra spectrum.
As technology continues to evolve, the demand for Wi-Fi connectivity in hospitals is only expected to increase.
The question of your future expansion and plans also mean considering factors such as the capacity of the network, the ability to upgrade equipment, and the flexibility to adapt to changing technology standards.
Network - and in particular Wi-Fi management are also a major factor for consideration. The right tools will help speed up fault finding and network administration, so having the management system as part of your plan to deploy Wi-Fi is paramount.
We are experts in Wi-Fi, especially the delivery of hospital Wi-Fi - if you need some help to design your site, drop us a line and we're here to help.