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Jun 27 2013   11:14AM GMT

Wireless network trends in healthcare

Posted by: EmilyHuizenga
BYOD, mHealth, mHealth applications, Network optimization, network security

sreeGuest post by Sree Kannan, Senior Manager, Aerohive Networks

The business of healthcare is both mission-critical and life-critical. Putting accurate and up-to-date medical information in caregivers’ hands at patient bedsides, surgery suites, or at the emergency rooms can greatly accelerate diagnosis, enhance treatment efficacy and reduce overall cost of care. 

Healthcare organizations primarily deploy Wi-Fi networking to provide guest access to the Internet and other non-critical internal resources. With the advent of the mobile-first workforce, the trend is shifting: Now, many organizations are using Wi-Fi to support critical patient care applications, provide mobile capabilities for care providers, and enable wireless clinical monitoring and tracking devices — all while ensuring patient privacy and confidential data is adequately protected and meets HIPAA compliance mandates. 

Healthcare IT faces daunting challenges. Decisions must be made about how access to computing resources now will affect efficiency and effectiveness in years to come.

Top considerations for optimizing your network for mobility:

These five tips highlight the benefits of a mobile-first healthcare organization and the advantages of characterizing the requirements granularly to enable a modern Wi-fi network for years to come.

  1. Design around application access and users, not the network

Designing and optimizing network access for mobility is a key aspect of servicing critical healthcare applications and ensuring resources meet scale. Essentially, the important part is deploying a network infrastructure that is acutely cognizant and optimized for application access and user context (user privilege, device type, location and time).

  1. Converge wired and wireless management tools

Approaching the overall network with a true single-pane-of-glass view with converged wired, wireless and security management transforms the way health IT administrators view, monitor and manage the entire access network infrastructure. With application visibility and control over performance thrown-in, empowered IT admins will impersonate Captain Kirk of Star Trek in ensuring the near optimal usage and up-time of all resources.

  1. Implement proper security policies for guest and BYOD

Mobile devices in healthcare access critical applications in a variety of ways. Many access with a software agent installed on a laptop, or through hosted virtual desktops, or from tablets like iPads through plain web browsers. And the device could belong to the corporation or employee. Implement user-centric policies with proper virtual local area network (VLAN) assignment, application quality of service policy based on the user and proper authentication, including legacy certificate-based authentication.

  1. Optimize wireless connectivity

Neighboring Wi-Fi devices and other sources can affect wireless local area network (WLAN) availability and interfere with users’ ability to use the network. These sources can include medical equipment, guest devices, neighboring organizations with wireless networks, and any equipment that emits energy in the Wi-Fi bands, such as microwave ovens and wireless surveillance cameras.

Advanced WLANs have sophisticated radio frequency management tools that can automatically detect interference, dynamically adjust power levels, and switch channels to sidestep congestion. Some vendors also have strong radio frequency planning tools to select optimal locations for access points and avoid interference once deployed. However, because radio frequency environments continually change, it is far more efficient to automate the network to self-adjust and self-heal in the presence of interference and failures.

  1. Extending mobile-first architecture benefits into the future

Deploying a modern Wi-Fi network with a granular visible management platform, optimizing for productivity and flexibility and meeting security mandates is a great starting point for any healthcare organization. If you spend one dollar to buy and deploy a technology solution, many times it takes three dollars to maintain it annually. Establishing break-fix remediation best practices by leveraging solution tools like centralized troubleshooting, service tools to isolate network issues from device issues (especially from those pesky consumer-grade mobile devices) and an ability to extend IT policies for new users will ensure a mobility platform built to last.

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