Healthcare facilities require networks that are different from ordinary business networks on almost every level, from the power infrastructure and the network core, to the wireless network and the wide area network (WAN). A medical grade network must never go down. It also must accommodate fluctuating workloads and meet a number of other requirements unique to healthcare.
The convergence of voice and data over a single network infrastructure was initially a smart way to eliminate dual wiring infrastructures. Beyond this telecommunications and data communications convergence, network convergence has turned hospitals into dense networks of sophisticated medical gear. For example, in the past, most biomedical devices were standalone devices with no internal storage, management, or communication capabilities. Now these devices rely on the network. The challenge is to provide a 24/7, high-availability network that can support the clinical requirements of myriad devices with minimal downtime.
At the Core
Despite increasing reliance on Wi-Fi networks, no hospital can do without a high-bandwidth wired network. High-resolution medical images demand it, and the wired LAN provides essential redundancy for the hospital wireless network.
Network cores are now fiber-based and require parallel and redundant devices and paths, a minimum bandwidth of 10GB, and an electrical power source that's always available. In the past, network closets were not designed into buildings. Now there are specific standards for secure data communication rooms. Multiple data communication rooms, redundant switches, and emergency power systems ensure that if one room has a failure, the others can manage the network load. This type of core design enables maintenance on network equipment without taking down the entire network.
Secure Your Entire Network
As more and more sophisticated, computerized medical gear finds its way into hospitals and doctors' offices, network availability and security take on even greater importance. Both wired and wireless networks need to be designed for the high-availability needs of healthcare, and the increasing number of mobile devices on the network places a special emphasis on wireless security. Addressing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy compliance and protecting confidential data are crucial tasks for IT administrators at clinics and hospitals.
A Single Set of Security Policies
Because hospital wireless networks are carrying patient medical data, IT pros must ensure that the traffic is encrypted. That means implementing Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA2) encryption. This requires a firewall combined with high-speed secure wireless that inspects and encrypts wireless network traffic and secures the wireless connection. These solutions can also enforce a single set of security policies over both wired and wireless networks. Many have extensive reporting mechanisms that conform to HIPAA requirements.
A Security Assessment from Connection can help with a 360° view of your network infrastructure that uncovers any security weaknesses.
Industrial Strength Wireless
Wireless networks offer caregivers immediate access to patient information, whenever and wherever it is needed. In order to take full advantage of mobile solutions, you need a network that can stand up to the high demands of healthcare environments.
Because hospital wireless networks are asked to carry such a wide variety of traffic, distinct travel lanes must be provided for each type, whether it be guest and patient access, medical records and basic images, medical equipment information, or data from RFID-based real-time location systems for medical equipment.
Generally, traffic is segregated and assigned to one of several virtual private networks across several different Wi-Fi channels.
For example, because Wi-Fi chips now are built into medical equipment like infusion pumps, those clinical systems are best kept on a separate channel or virtual local area network (virtual LAN) so they don't interfere with the data network.
Consider Imaging Needs
Radiology imaging services are now exclusively digital. Medical images of all modalities are transferred over both LANs and WANs. While extremely high-resolution medical images cannot be carried effectively over current Wi-Fi networks, basic images at lower resolution are often sent with medical records, which should be on their own separate virtual LAN or channel.
These records and images arrive at patients' bedsides on mobile medical workstations that can be moved from one bedside to the next and require reliable Wi-Fi network access.
If your organization is looking to upgrade or expand your network, the first step is to understand what you have today.
Learn how to transform your infrastructure into a secure, scalable, and efficient foundation for future technology. Connection's Network Assessment and Network Inventory services can help you chart your network's strengths and weaknesses so you can choose where to allocate your funds for maximum effectiveness.
To learn more, complete our Information Request Form or contact an
Account Executive at 1-800-369-1047.