By: Craig Badrick on December 14th, 2016


What Every Healthcare IT Pro Should Know About RF Planning For Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi  |  Healthcare

There isn’t a whole lot that’s more frustrating to hospital staff than a wireless network with spotty coverage, slow connectivity and severed connections. Daily hospital operations rely heavily on the ability to connect various devices via Wi-Fi. If the performance of your wireless network is poor, it’s going to cause huge headaches for the people who need to access it regularly -- and, subsequently, for your healthcare IT team.

One factor that can contribute to these WiFi issues is radio frequency (RF) interference. This interference is caused by electromagnetic signals emitted by many types of appliances and devices, including things like electronics, wireless phones, microwaves and Bluetooth devices.  

If you’re preparing to update your hospital’s wireless network, it is absolutely essential to make radio frequency planning a part of the process. You can’t achieve the necessary coverage and wireless performance if you don’t fully understand the RF environment into which the network is being deployed. You must take that knowledge into consideration when planning your network update -- or risk experiencing connection problems and incurring even greater costs for your organization.


Read on to find out why radio frequency planning is so vital to hospital wireless networking, and access your free copy of Healthcare IT Professionals: Is It Time To Invest In Better Wireless Networking?


Identifying the Culprits of RF Interference

“Hospitals are replete with sources of interference and many applications that require the ultimate in reliability to assure patient safety. Patient telemetry systems, cellular telephones, bluetooth devices, security radio systems, police and paramedic radios, Wi-Fi, microwave ovens, cordless telephone systems, light dimmers, fax machines, floor buffers, elevators, elevator controls, nearby cellular base stations, broadcast transmitters, and ultrasound systems all contribute to the harsh RF environment in hospitals. This may not be a lot worse than many businesses, but lives are at stake so it is critical to be able to quickly solve interference problems.” (Med Device Online)

In addition, hospital buildings are often constructed using materials that can block radio frequency. These physical barriers, such as metal, concrete and brick, prevent RF signals from passing through them. Only with a
thorough site survey performed by knowledgeable RF experts are healthcare IT professionals able to properly plan for all physical barriers and potential sources of interference.


4 Adverse Effects of Post-Installation Interference

A number of issues can arise if radio frequency interference is not reviewed or accounted for prior to wireless network installation. If there is interference once installation is complete, you’re likely to experience some of the following ramifications:


1. Weakened Communication Among Staff

Breakdowns in hospital communication greatly impede the staff’s ability to provide quality care to patients. In order for physicians, nurses and other staff members to properly carry out their duties, they must be able to exchange information quickly and communicate successfully. RF interference has the potential to impede these efforts, as much of the communication that occurs within the hospital is carried out through digital means that require reliable wireless performance.


2. Outages in Certain Areas

Even if your network covers the necessary areas, outages can occur as a result of radio frequency interference. Obviously, the repercussions of an outage are detrimental to the delivery of efficient, high-quality patient care. To prevent delays and compromised care, it is crucial to perform radio frequency planning that mitigates the risk of interference in wireless coverage areas.  


3. Slower Data Transfer Than You’re Paying For

You’re spending a significant amount of money to have the bandwidth and level of connectivity that your organization needs and expects in order to function optimally. Unfortunately, if RF interference is a problem, those expenses may not ensure the transfer speed you require for efficient productivity. There’s a greater chance of experiencing slowed data transmission that results in untimely delays.


4. Costs of Network Redesign

If the problems caused by RF interference become too great to ignore, it may be necessary to reassess your wireless network design and execute a new setup to correct the issues. Aside from the obvious headaches that this setback is apt to cause in terms of time and inconvenience, there is also a budgetary drain. You end up paying double the price to fix what should have been done properly in the first place.


Ensuring Smart Wireless Network Design

Wi-Fi impediments like the ones described above don't just cause hospital users to become frustrated and irritable; they can seriously hinder productivity, service and care. That’s what makes radio frequency planning so critical for healthcare IT professionals to consider prior to developing a wireless network design.  


Make the smart and cost-efficient decision to have a proper site survey executed before upgrading your hospital’s network. This upfront planning and documentation facilitates a smooth and successful implementation of your network. Work with an experienced partner like TTI, and benefit from the use of sophisticated planning tools and knowledgeable engineers with extensive radio frequency experience. This is the most important thing you can do for your hospital’s wireless network implementation.

Has a lack of RF planning at your hospital resulted in poor wireless network performance? Let us know about your experiences below, and get more valuable advice and information in your free copy of Healthcare IT Professionals: Is It Time To Invest In Better Wireless Networking?
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