Deploying WiFi For Clinicians, Hospital Guests A Complex Problem

These days, offering WiFi for both hospital visitors and clinicians is pretty much de rigeur. The problem is, clinicians need different things from their Wi-Fi connection than consumers do. And as a recent story in Healthcare IT News notes, that can make it difficult to keep up with everyone’s demands.

According to Ali Youssef, senior clinical mobile solutions architect at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, maintaining a wireless network that suits everyone’s needs is “moving target.”

Youssef was responsible for planning and implementing the HFHS wireless network, which included expanding coverage from 4 million to 8 million square feet. What’s more, the network rollout had to take into account the needs of the HFHS enterprise EMR system, according to the HIN piece.

For Youssef, one of the most difficult problems health IT managers face in this situation is provisioning bandwidth appropriately to all the different types of devices that will share the bandwidth.

Not surprisingly, Youssef believes that one of the most important ways to see that everyone has enough bandwidth is regular contact with the system’s clinicians.

In some situations, clinicians may need far more bandwidth then the IT department had anticipated, for example, where clinician is launching a new project fueled by grant money, notes the Healthcare IT News piece. (We’re also increasingly see a growing list of wireless medical devices, such as wireless glucometers, edge into mainstream clinical care.)

To cope with these rapidly changing demands, Youssef recommends planning for a high level of wireless system redundancy and conducting site surveys.

And in what may be a more difficult challenge, he recommends that network architects keep continuous tabs on what types of devices are going to be used, and testing them see how they behave on their health system’s network.

Youssef didn’t offer any detailed advice on how to accommodate hospital visitors in this story, but clearly, they will pose a significant challenge to any hospital network architect as well.

Particularly as apps become part of patients’ health system experience, network architects will need to bear consumer experience of the network in mind as well. It will be interesting to see, over the next few years, whether consumer wireless health use demands a fresh approach to network architecture generally.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • I see 2 completely separated sets of issues here. What guests (in hospitals) need, and what clinicians need.

    For the former, people may forget that patients also need wifi access – or more specifically, computer and internet access, and sometimes wifi. A few years ago, I had a multi day hospital stay, and my need was to be able to keep up with my work. But I also needed my personal email, and various entertainment. and IF my hospital had it available by computer, my ‘treatment’ and appointment schedule within the hospital – when are the med students coming through, when is my doctor expected, when are the hospitalists coming through to say hello, and anything else I need to know. Plus letting me order my meals (without bothering a nurse), send questions to my doctor, and far more.

    Clinicians of course have numerous uses for wifi. Besides EHRs, communicating with patients beyond a daily visit, using medical devices like mobile heart, glucose, pulse ox and like monitoring. Plus tracking patients and key equipment throughout the premises.

    There needs to be 2, or maybe 3 separate systems. Clinical of course, patient (potentially protected with temporary network credentials for each patient), and visitors. And you can be sure that bandwidth will need to be far more then expected, and that the latest ‘AC’ wifi standards should be implemented.

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