By: Craig Badrick on December 21st, 2016


Slow Hospital Wi-Fi: Defining & Defeating the Problem

Wi-Fi  |  Healthcare

Your hospital’s wireless network is constantly being bombarded by a multitude of devices, all of which are designed for different uses. From EHR systems and medical technologies to patient and guest smartphones and tablets, the demands on your Wi-Fi are immense.


The bad news: This perpetual siphoning of connectivity may be slowing down your network, frustrating users across the hospital -- from doctors, nurses and technicians to patients, visitors and administrative staff.


The good news: A network upgrade can resolve your hospital Wi-Fi issues and improve the experience for users. In a hospital setting, efficient and reliable wireless access is essential for providing exceptional care and keeping all critical medical applications running smoothly.

So before you call in the professionals to upgrade your system, you should first identify why your network is running slowly. Only with full and accurate information about the capacity required to run various devices will your network professionals be able to suggest the most successful solutions to meet your needs.


NETWORK PROBLEMS GOT YOU DOWN? This free guide is for you.

Healthcare IT Professionals: Is It Time To Invest In Better Wireless Networking?


4 Critical Questions to Prepare for a Hospital Wi-Fi Upgrade

A wireless network upgrade can be a complicated, complex effort. Rushing into it blindly will only cost your hospital money without ensuring the most suitable improvements. If you’re planning an upgrade, be sure to take the following considerations into account before jumping to conclusions and diving into implementation.


1. Is 802.11b enough?

If your hospital Wi-Fi is currently running on an 802.11b network, this may be sufficient for basic traffic. But chances are you’re also required to support higher-bandwidth applications, such as transmissions of X-rays and MRI scans or even videos. In this case, your 802.11b network may not be enough. It might be necessary to upgrade to 802.11g or 802.11ac, which have the capacity to transmit higher-bandwidth data streams without slowing the wireless connection or causing network outages.


Have a clear understanding of all the types of data transfer that are necessary within your organization. This is the smartest way to determine what type of network upgrade is best suited to meet the needs of daily hospital operations.


2. What does your cabling infrastructure look like?

“When planning for wireless access points (WAPs), building system sensors or wireless medical equipment, the conversation rarely turns to structured cabling. Despite its name, wireless activity has to be funneled through a cable at some point. As access point speeds and user demand continue to increase, health facilities professionals must start paying attention to the cabling infrastructure behind the WAPs.” (Health Facilities Management)


Is your cabling outdated or in need of replacement? Will you require an upgrade to your cabling infrastructure to support the needs of increased access point speeds? Should you be utilizing copper or fiber? Will your cabling solution carry your network through the next 5-10 years or become obsolete much sooner? These are the types of questions you need to be looking into before moving forward with your wireless network upgrade.


3. How can your network setup be optimized?

Network design is absolutely vital in ensuring that your Wi-Fi performs well for all devices across the organization. Since there are many factors that affect your access points (interference, security, accessibility, etc.), you should be arranging for an in-depth site survey and network assessment to identify the most effective setup.


An assessment of your wireless network will determine the best positioning for your access points, the proper number of access points to deliver adequate service, how to get around sources of interference and how to meet these requirements most affordably.


4. Do you have insight into mobile user profiles?

Finally, it is important to understand how many people are accessing your wireless network and what types of activities they are engaging in while connected.

  • Are patients using the hospital Wi-Fi to work, check social media sites and stream movies while they wait?
  • Are doctors uploading and downloading patient information via laptops or tablets?
  • Are advancements in medical technology requiring greater bandwidth?


Some of these activities may be putting a greater strain on the network than others. To avoid affecting Wi-Fi speed and driving up network costs, you must have a solid understanding of these realities. For example, having a separate, restricted-access network for guests is usually recommended. But you won’t know what solutions best meet your hospital’s needs -- at the most cost-effective rate -- unless you fully assess your network prior to an upgrade project.


First Things First: Conducting A Network Assessment

Today’s hospital Wi-Fi networks are facing increasing challenges and greater demands from users and their devices. If your network is experiencing issues with slower speeds, it’s best to arrange for a complete network assessment in order to identify factors such as:

  • Sources of interference
  • High-density areas of users
  • High bandwidth applications
  • Required amount and location of access points


The design of your hospital’s wireless network is the most important step in any deployment or upgrade project. Be sure to make this a priority and focus on the above considerations before bringing in the professionals for implementation. Your network performance and your budget depend on it.


Experiencing slow Wi-Fi at your hospital? Share your challenges below, and then arm yourself with expert education and guidance by reading Healthcare IT Professionals: Is It Time To Invest In Better Wireless Networking?
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