The 5 Most Common Problems with Hospital Networks
Hospital networks are struggling to keep up with cybersecurity, HIPAA regulations, data management, and more.
As the healthcare industry shifts its focus to patients and their needs, hospital networks are struggling to keep pace. The healthcare industry is one of the biggest targets for cybersecurity attacks in the world. In 2017, healthcare organizations were attacked an average of 32,000 times per day. Compare that to organizations in other industries, which saw an average of 14,300 attacks per day.
Cybersecurity isn’t the only IT concern plaguing hospital networks. Patients are demanding that their medical records be made easily accessible and transferred as needed to pharmacies, other physicians, other hospitals, or to their mobile devices. In addition, wearable medical IT products are becoming popular as the desire for patients to have access to their own real-time health data increases. Each of these trends places an additional burden on aging and unreliable hospital networks.
As hospitals transform their existing information networks to meet the demands of patients and a more connected IoT world, these are the five biggest issues that put hospital networks at risk.
Maintaining a reliable, secure WiFi connection is one of the biggest problems facing most hospitals. Outdated network infrastructure, bandwidth and capacity demands, and security risks are just are few reasons why WiFi fails in many hospitals.
First, a hospital’s WiFi network must support a wide range of devices. On average, each patient has three to six monitoring devices attached to them while at the hospital. Though not all of these devices rely on WiFi, many of them do. This places a huge burden on the WiFi network’s bandwidth — an issue that will only continue to grow as more and more IoT devices are used to track patient health. The patient experience is going to demand big data — and therefore a better WiFi connection.
Aside from the various electronic medical record activity and healthcare programs that run all day, unsecured personal devices like smartphones and tablets use WiFi for streaming and other unsupervised activity. Hospital WiFi networks will need greater speed in order to provide the patient experience that hospitals want to provide.
Finally, the physical layout of the hospital can make achieving a good WiFi connection difficult. Many hospitals have multiple floors, concrete walls, and drop ceilings. These structures make it difficult for WiFi infrastructure to work the way it should. Improve connectivity by strategically locating your WiFi access points or increasing the number of APs in your network.
Hospital Networks, HIPAA Laws, and Cybersecurity
Protecting patient data is of paramount importance. Hospital networks must be able to exchange patient medical records securely and efficiently with internal and external partners. Hefty fines are imposed on hospitals that fail to meet HIPAA regulations. Civil penalties range from $25,000 to $1.5 million per year; criminal penalties can lead to fines of up to $250,000 and ten years in prison.
Preventing security breaches means implementing comprehensive network upgrades and continuous assessments and improvements. The key to protecting a hospital’s network is finding a way to develop a cost-effective solution that grants secure access to medical records for patients, their providers, and other healthcare facilities. Cybersecurity protocols, such as gigabit VPN firewalls and content filtering that blocks malware without restricting performance is necessary for safeguarding patient privacy, medical records, and other extensive hospital operational data.
Data Management and Sensitive Information Programs
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed to ensure that patient information and medical records are protected in the exchange of medical data between hospitals, physicians, and patients. Hospitals must be sure that sensitive data and information is protected at every authorized data exchange. It is the hospital’s duty to provide the necessary tools to its healthcare providers to securely and efficiently exchange data with authorized recipients and their patients.
It is an industry best practice to devise and implement strategic plans and assessments to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and data breaches. System and security assessments pinpoint aspects of a network that fail to meet regulatory requirements. Knowing what your system lacks is one step closer to beating its deficiencies. Performing these assessments on a regular basis will provide consistent and reliable regulatory and system reports that could be used to improve your network and prevent breaches.
Network reliability can be achieved by tackling interoperability problems on a large scale. This includes running an assessment on how your network is being used, who is using it, and setting up your network to meet the bandwidth needs of your healthcare providers and their patients. Higher performing networks implement regular network assessments and utilize management tools that prioritize performance, security, and accessibility.
Overcoming Regulatory Barriers
In order to innovate and introduce new devices and technologies into your network, IT managers must first overcome significant barriers in the form of regulations (HIPAA). Having a comprehensive understanding of the nuances and issues surrounding HIPAA provides insight into how far regulations reach, as well as parameters to work with while creatively approaching the introduction and implementation of new devices and technologies. A good place to start is with a network assessment and network cleanup.
A regulated industry does not have to mean that the introduction of new technology has to be painful and drawn out. It only proves the value of having a networking partner like Turn-key Technologies (TTI) who understands how to build hospital networks that are compliant and secure. The IT professionals at TTI have been working with medical organizations for over 25 years. We can help you diagnose and resolve your WiFi problems, as well as provide effective solutions for maintaining security and compliance with HIPAA regulations.
By Craig Badrick