Wi-Fi Lies

I chanced upon this great article at Enterprise Imaging by Jim McCarthy on the “top 10 myths on Wi-Fi deployment in a healthcare setting”. I always wanted to write an article on Wi-Fi in a hospital environment but never really got around writing it. As the article is pretty straight to the point, I’ll just show it here.

Myth #1: Wi-Fi transmissions can interfere with critical medical equipment
While Wi-Fi devices do transmit via RF signaling, they tend to operate with very low power and transmit intermittently, unlike mobile phones, for example, which have higher power levels and longer duration transmissions. Multiple studies have shown that Wi-Fi devices are safe in hospital settings and do not interfere with electronic medical equipment.

Myth #2: A consumer Wi-Fi system can be implemented in a health care setting
Organizations often fall into the trap of deploying inexpensive consumer Wi-Fi equipment in a professional environment. In most cases, the potential cost savings rarely outweighs the frustration that results from poor performance, security, management and scalability. Eventually, organizations recognize the need to invest in a Wi-Fi solution designed specifically for a health care environment.

Myth #3: I can size my Wi-Fi application at installation
When deploying a WLAN, health care organizations often determine product requirements based on their current end-user application and device volumes. However, as the organization’s wireless needs inevitably grow, they often need to replace access points and switches to support burgeoning demand. Organizations should design WLAN networks to scale over time, eliminating the need for expensive upgrades as demand increases.

Myth #4: I still need to wire the hospital with network cables
Many health care organizations do not realize that Wi-Fi can be a cost-effective alternative to running cable, particularly in hard-to-wire locations. Wi-Fi can deliver seamless connectivity through access points, requiring only a power outlet, which can be placed in ceilings, on building walls or utility poles to backhaul wireless traffic without cables.

Myth #5: Wi-Fi networks cannot support high-priority or high-bandwidth applications
802.11n, the new wireless standard scheduled for ratification in 2008, delivers five times greater Wi-Fi performance than previous standards. Hospitals can deploy and prioritize bandwidth-hungry applications, such as medical imaging and real-time patient monitoring, using a variety of techniques supported by 802.11n. With data rates as high as 300 Mbps, 802.11n can ultimately deliver performance that is competitive with wired LAN speeds.

Myth #6: I need to replace legacy medical devices to leverage Wi-Fi
A wide variety of cost-effective products allow hospitals to connect legacy devices to the wireless LAN, eliminating costly equipment upgrades or replacements. Health care organizations should look for solutions that are interoperable with their existing devices.

Myth #7: Security starts at the client and ends at the access point
As a result of HIPAA, security is a top concern for health care organizations. While security measures at the access point are important, a comprehensive security policy ensures that the entire network is protected against security threats, such as unauthorized access points, by a centrally managed intrusion detection and prevention system.

Myth #8: Wi-Fi should only be for employee use; patient/guest access shouldn’t run on the same wireless LAN
Modern wireless LAN systems can segment traffic onto separate secure networks, enabling hospitals to offer wireless guest access to patients, visitors and other non-employees (such as contract workers), without compromising patient confidentiality or allowing access to sensitive hospital applications.

Myth #9: My critical applications will remain stationary
Even if most of a hospital’s current applications are stationary, it’s likely that the WLAN will eventually need to support applications ranging from clinical care to back-office management. Hospitals should design their WLANs to deliver fast, seamless access to enterprise applications using mobile devices with diverse bandwidth and latency requirements positioned at various locations.

Myth #10: I need a WLAN controller at all locations
Health care organizations with distributed buildings or campus-like arrangements often assume they need a WLAN controller or switch on the same premises as the access points in order to effectively manage network traffic loads. However, a dedicated controller in a centralized location can control hundreds of distributed access points, allowing network traffic to flow directly from source to destination without time-consuming detours.

About Adam Chee

Health Informatician
This entry was posted in Blog - Health IT, Blog - IT & More. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wi-Fi Lies

  1. Adam Chee says:

    I chanced upon another interesting article on implementing wireless technologies in a healthcare setting, this one is titled “Hospitals should go wireless”.

    Read it at
    http://www.healthimaging.com/index.php?option=himss08&sectionid=25&catid=164&Itemid=179&article=9894

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