An optimized wireless network is a mission-critical resource for every healthcare facility. Innumerable pieces of health technology now connect to the WiFi providing real-time updates and actionable insights health professionals use to identify specific health risks and improve care coordination. In addition, electronic health records (EHRs) are accessed via the WiFi, solutions like telemedicine depend on the WiFi, and the list goes on. Healthcare professionals, executives and administrators know the benefits and frustrations when the network doesn’t work as it should. To keep networks running smoothly and efficiently, use these tips for network optimization. 

Update site survey

When your network was first designed and deployed, your facility probably underwent a site survey. This survey determined exactly where access points (APs) needed to be placed for optimum network performance. Physical obstructions like walls and ceilings, as well as wired/wireless interference from things like microwaves or neighboring networks can greatly inhibit the strength of a WiFi signal. A site survey tells you how best to avoid those issues, which is great, but you must remember that network ecosystems are always changing. New devices are constantly added or moved, and buildings can undergo renovations. All of this can mean your network design needs to be updated.

You can schedule another site survey or work with an analytics platform that’ll provide data on the signal strength of every AP on the network. This information can be used by IT professionals to monitor coverage and determine if something needs to change.

Upgrade your devices

A general rule of thumb is devices need to be upgraded every 3 to 5 years. For the best return on investment, use historical analytics to compare network health and network demands over time to make the best decisions about upgrades and infrastructure changes. Studying these analytics will give personnel the information needed to make the most efficient and effective budget and capacity planning decisions.

Prioritize network traffic

Not all network users are created the same. For example, any device that directly contributes to patient health should have network priority over a device being used to play a game. By configuring your router’s Quality of Service (QoS) Rules, you can ensure the most important applications, services and/or users get the most bandwidth. This can be as broad as prioritizing one network over another – to do this, first relegate all not-as-important traffic to a guest network – or you can make it even more specific. Different routers have different firmware and QoS capabilities, so determine specific settings by checking with your vendor.

Get 100% network visibility

As mentioned, network ecosystems are always changing. They consist of everything from connected devices, to backend and front-end infrastructure, to the entire radio frequency (RF) environment. If any one part of the network degrades, it can affect the entire ecosystem. The only way to know exactly what’s going on, and therefore to ensure successful problem prevention, identification and resolution, is with 100% network visibility. Today, you can achieve that with different WiFi assurance platforms. Look for a platform that identifies every connected device – including visitors’ devices – and recognizes normal vs. abnormal network behavior. If anything abnormal happens, the platform should alert IT immediately.

Remember, when it comes to optimizing a network, the key is to be as proactive as possible.

Run scheduled network tests

Scheduling network tests to run every day, week or month means there are far less likely to be any “surprises” that’ll cause network degradation and lead to a loss in critical data and life-saving technology. Some testing tools and analytic platforms allow for remote testing, which can be helpful when IT personnel aren’t always onsite. You can also look for a solution that’ll connect to the network as a client device, as this ensures test results exactly mimic the experience of any other device connected to the network. In addition, you want something that will automatically report all test results and alert IT in real-time if any test fails.

An optimized network consistently and reliably provides the strong wireless service needed to support many healthcare facilities today. Follow these tips and work proactively to make sure that your network isn’t only optimized for today’s use but remains optimized into the future.

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