While hospital CIOs view Wi-Fi as essential to operations, not just any Wi-Fi will do. The healthcare environment demands a "medical-grade" WLAN with the availability and Wi-Fi performance required for critical communications and biomedical devices. IT leaders must also be able to deliver pervasive connectivity and support high levels of roaming while managing the security, regulatory and other issues that come with BYOD.
Unfortunately, a number of persistent problems have made it difficult for hospital CIOs to achieve the necessary service levels and realize a return on investment in the form of reduced costs, increased operational efficiency and improved staff productivity. Below are 5 Wi-Fi performance challenges hospital face:
- Inadequate Design. Some hospitals have implemented Wi-Fi incrementally to support specific applications or areas within the facility — designs once were sufficient but now contribute to a fragmented WLAN infrastructure. Many other hospitals have poorly designed WLANs that are simply incapable of meeting the demands of the medical environment.
- Challenging Physical Environment. While developing a medical-grade WLAN is difficult in and of itself, hospitals in particular face a number of unique challenges. Masonry, concrete and other building materials block radio frequency (RF) signals, as do the thousands of highly mobile metal objects constantly moving throughout the facility. New issues are introduced continually in this dynamic environment as new medical Wi-Fi devices and equipment create interference on the same 2.4GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi.
- Quantity and Diversity of Devices. There are also problems with the devices themselves — CIOs report serious issues with hardware and device drivers that prevent devices from connecting to the WLAN. Keeping pace with the vast variety of devices and all of the manufacturer’s updates is a time-consuming chore. Device density is also a challenge, as growing numbers of wireless-enabled biomedical devices compete with smartphones and tablets for wireless network access. Many hospitals struggle to scale their WLANs effectively to meet escalating bandwidth requirements.
- VoWLAN Issues. The WLAN often is unable to provide the seamless handoffs between access points (APs) that are necessary to prevent dropped calls as doctors, nurses and staff roam throughout the facility. In addition, jittery voice connections and overall poor voice quality due to bottlenecks and other WLAN throughput issues prevent doctors and staff from communicating effectively.
- Security and Regulatory Compliance. Many CIOs report that security and regulatory compliance requirements exacerbate WLAN challenges. Hospitals must implement an integrated policy enforcement strategy to ensure that user-owned devices accessing the network meet HIPAA standards for protecting sensitive patient data.