Today’s healthcare climate requires that hospital Wi-Fi networks support many different devices at once, not to mention provide roaming capabilities and continuous, reliable connections for critical equipment.
Part of ensuring that the wireless network is high performing and high quality is making sure access points (APs) are placed effectively throughout the hospital campus. Below are some tips for ensuring that you’re placing APs efficiently:
It’s important to know your campus well before you start to plan where to place APs. Start by conducting a site survey, which allows you to understand the layout as well as where higher concentrations of people will be versus low-traffic areas of the hospital. This will help you plan a new implementation or determine how the current wireless network is working; it enables identification of potential problem areas and sources of interference.
Public areas of the hospital, such as waiting rooms or cafeterias, will likely have the most traffic, since visitors, patients, and hospital staff are all trying to connect. However, it’s important to note that patient or exam rooms may be the more difficult areas in which to provide continuous networking since interference can happen from some of the medical machinery necessary to treat patients. Thus, it’s sometimes a good idea to place APs within certain individual rooms.
In an existing network, a tool like a spectrum analyzer or network adapter can be used throughout the campus to help you find interference sources and areas with lots of noise. Network managers should obtain a building blueprint that includes measurements of all areas of the hospital, followed by planning out where to place APs on the documents.
New predictive modeling technologies can help visualize AP placement plan even better. These tools allow you to create 2-D or 3-D models of your entire building or individual spaces via virtual design files of the structure. They can help you optimize your AP placement and some software can even predict how certain building materials will contribute to RF interference.
An example of an obstruction unique to hospitals is a lead wall that is used in radiology or x-ray departments. These materials protect people from dangerous radioactive waves, but can also interfere with Wi-Fi networks.
Account for these kinds of locations with greater likelihood of electromagnetic interference when creating your wireless network design.
Remember that it is possible to deploy too many APs within your network. It’s thus important to strike the right balance between too many and too few. Hospital networks require a bit more planning than other network areas because the Wi-Fi is so critical for adequate and continuous care.
Some hospitals deploy an AP for every 1,000 square feet, whereas the standard in other types of networks is one for every 3,000 square feet. Because each layout is different from hospital to hospital, there is no one best practice that will meet the needs of each and every building.
Deploying too many APs can have negative impacts on your throughput and actually cause interference, so make sure that you’re not trying to solve every issue this way.
Remember that with multiple floors in the building, APs could interfere with other APs both above and below, whether they are on the same channel or adjoining channels. To combat this kind of interference, try reducing the transmit signal power on the APs, or move an AP to another channel or to the 5 GHz band.
Part of creating a wireless network that supports the range of uses and devices found in any hospital is implementing a successful monitoring strategy. 7SIGNAL uses monitoring sensors and services that reduce your network’s downtime, give you valuable data about your Wi-Fi performance, and help you adapt your design to address any changes or challenges as they arise.
Most important, 7SIGNAL’s wireless network monitoring services ensure that you’re alerted to issues before the end-user experiences any drop or slowdown in coverage.
7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.