Roaming is a critical consideration for any hospital network management staff. Say a patient or hospital employee is moving from one end of the hospital to the other and using a mobile device to track health stats or communicate with another staff member—suddenly the wireless connection cuts out. Vital information may be lost or delayed.
While this could happen because of a few different Wi-Fi problems, roaming is often the cause of such slowdowns or outages. To better understand how important it is to address within your hospital’s WLAN, let’s first cover the basics of roaming:
Roaming allows a user to connect to a wireless network when moving throughout the coverage area or, sometimes, when leaving the home coverage area. As cell phones first became popular, you may have become familiar with the term when your phone would be somewhere outside of your provider’s coverage area but would still have service, typically at higher rates for usage.
Roaming gives mobile devices the ability to have network access while moving from one access point (AP) to another within the WLAN, which is the most relevant consideration for hospitals or other large organizations—any kind of institution that has a large campus on which one user would be moving from one distant point to another.
As a user is moving throughout the network area, their device connects from one AP to the next. Sometimes, moving from one AP to another can cause issues with device connectivity and thus cause slow and spotty Internet access.
But roaming may also occur even if a device is stationary. This can happen if a device is located within the range of multiple APs and is connected to one of them. If one AP is physically blocked from the device, the device may start roaming to the second AP in range.
The goal is to prevent the user from experiencing any drop in connectivity, whether they’re participating in a video conference or voice call, tracking patient vitals, or doing other activity that requires a steady connection.
Hospitals are complex and often very large, consisting of multiple APs throughout the different units and wings. Roaming needs to be factored into network planning so that any given user can roam throughout the campus with no issues. This is especially critical because hospitals are comprised of many different types of medical devices that are necessary for proper patient care; these devices must stay connected and not experience issues when they have to move around. Common mobile devices in hospitals range from patients’ body sensors to mobile workstations to physicians’ wireless devices.
To adequately support roaming within your WLAN, several factors need to be considered during strategy and implementation. First, consider the actual physical environment in your organization so that you know where the APs should be placed for optimal performance. Working with a Wi-Fi specialist can help you create the ideal AP placement plan since no two structures are alike. For example, instead of placing APs in hallways, it’s actually more effective to place them in rooms or offices—where the connections are happening. Not doing this is a common mistake.
Then, consider the kinds of devices that will be connected to the network most, and what kind of applications these devices will be using. Because all medical devices don’t have the same roaming ability, IT staff within a hospital should implement wireless devices that can handle the roaming process quickly. Embedded Wi-Fi modules help this equipment roam seamlessly.
Because hospitals are so complex and require strong, continuous connections to provide proper healthcare services, network managers are tasked with ensuring that the WLAN can support roaming. It’s essential that devices won’t lose connection as they move across the network area and pass off to other APs.
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.