Networking News

Healthcare Wireless Network Optimization Key to Functionality

Organizations need to fully optimize their healthcare wireless network to fully realize the potential of connected medical devices.

healthcare wireless network

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare wireless networks re transforming as organizations continue to add solutions and tools to their health IT infrastructure. Large healthcare providers in particular face challenges when it comes to optimizing their wireless network among desperate and evolving digital tools.

The number of connected medical and Internet of Things (IoT) devices on any given healthcare wireless network calls for a more advanced wireless technology and increased visibility and control over how and when devices are connecting to the network. Data intensive files such as medical images are also traveling through the network, which can create problems for covered entities.

The current wireless standard, 802.11ac, widens bandwidth to allow more traffic to flow through the network. However, simply widening the bandwidth and improving traffic flow with more advanced hardware is not enough to truly have control over the network.

Organizations also need to consider users gaining access to the network using cellular connections and cloud-based tools and applications that are accessing the network via the public internet.

The network optimization market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.6 percent through 2023, according to Research and Markets. Network optimization improves network performance and helps IT staff manage their IT infrastructure tools as the volume of data passing through the network continues to increase.

Entities need to be able to control their network for speed and reliability as well as for security vulnerabilities. Networks that are not optimized can potentially put patients in danger if a clinician can’t get access to necessary tools in emergency situations because the network bandwidth was too crowed.

IT infrastructure is becoming more advanced, which means that networks need to evolve to accommodate those advancements. Networks need to be smarter and prioritize signals to ensure that more important data is communicated over less timely data.

The network needs to recognize the difference between a clinician viewing an EHR in the emergency room and a clinician viewing an EHR for a wellness visit. Access to clinician tools needs to be prioritized over front office emails, or less critical tasks.

“The network has to be designed just like air traffic control,” Extreme Networks Director of Healthcare Solutions Bob Zemke told HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview. “We have to look at the critical devices and how to prioritize them. We start with mission critical systems, life critical, telemetry, emergency communications, nurse call, then we look at maybe the business applications and systems, and everything else needed to support the clinicians' access and their devices. What bandwidth is left you typically have to provide for the patients.”

The network also needs to recognize when a connected device isn’t communicating with the network the way it’s supposed to.

For example, the network needs to identify that an infusion pump is trying to send a web request out to the internet instead of just communicating with the management server. Devices communicating abnormally can cause security problems for the network. Without a management solution, administrators may never detect small and potentially dangerous malfunctions.

Visibility and network management solutions provide IT administrators with the option of per-connection troubleshooting. Instead of looking at the device as a single entity, management solutions can examine the connection between a smartphone and an app, or from the app to the controller, to determine exactly where the communication error resides.

This visibility gives organizations more control over their network, which allows them to fully optimize their connected medical devices.

Optimizing the network is key to getting the most out of health IT solutions. Without optimizing and managing the network, organizations will have to deal with devices that don’t function like they need to and delayed access to critical information.


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