Hospital Wifi: The State of Mobile Technology in Healthcare

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | June 5, 2014 | Read Time: 3 mins

Table of contents

Back to top

Healthcare these days has gone through some major changes and no I’m not talking about “ObamaCare”. What I’m focused on is mobile technology use and how it has quickly engulfed our hospital wifi networks.

From BYOD in hospitals to RTLS to the mobile devices that are used regularly by hospital staff, it’s safe to say that most hospital IT departments are feeling the pressure.

Until recently it hasn’t been exactly clear as to how the mobile technology environment looked in healthcare.

hospital wifi, hospital wireless networks, wifi service providers,Now however, we do have a better understanding and as we suspected many healthcare wi-fi networks are not prepared to take on today’s and tomorrow’s increased use of mobile devices.

Just this past winter (February 26th, 2014) HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) released their “3rd annual HIMSS Analytics Mobile Survey Report”. The report gave a detailed view of the mobile technology landscape as it stands currently in healthcare. Below is a great infographic that outlines their results:

mobile technology in healthcare, hospital wireless networks

There are many takeaways from the infographic above however there is one point that jumps out me.

Security. According to the survey the most common method for securing data on mobile devices are passwords. As we just saw with the "Heartbleed bug", passwords are incredibly vulnerable and not exactly the most secure method of protecting mobile data especially on their own.

Here are some ways to make the mobile devices much more secure:

1) Segment the wireless traffic by Roles and Device types:

For example a wireless VoIP phone will have a role that gives it high priority but also limits it’s network access to only the call manager or VoIP gateway. This way, if someone hacks the system they still can’t access patient data.

2) Use Radius Authentication and/or Certificates on mobile devices:

Passwords or pre-shared Key’s are not the best way to provide security. 802.1x can be done today even on BYOD devices and Certificates offer the ability to securely register one device to one person.

3) Use Mobile Device Management for Hospital Owned Devices (and maybe even BYOD devices):

Dr.’s and Nurses are using their smartphones inside the hospital. MDM can allow them to do that securely by having the ability to securely load and remove hospital applications with sensitive data in wireless security, mobile device security in hospitals, hospital wifi,

4) Use Real Time Visibility RF Tools:

This one sounds confusing so I’ll explain in detail. The older network tools were meant to troubleshoot and secure ports on a switch..but all the users have gone mobile. You need to have a tool that will show you your hospital floor plan visually, plot access points and wireless coverage, then show you devices/users, where they are and what they’re connected to. This is so critical for tracking usage on a wireless network and for security purposes. Otherwise we’re all flying blind.

5) Use an Application Firewall:

There’s a lot of buzz out there on “Next Generation” firewalls for good reason. They can provide Layer7 visibility and control. This is really important for mobile security. You need to be able to see and control exactly what is happening on your network from all of those mobile devices and write security rules that prioritize applications like Microsoft Lync over Netflix streaming.

Ultimately, having a mobility strategy in place that is designed with the proper infrastructure and geared toward specific goals is the key, it must be a system working together to see real success.

Tweetable Moments:

  • “According to the HIMSS Mobile Survey Passwords are the most widespread security device in place"
  • “59% of hospitals surveyed by HIMSS have a mobile technology plan”
  • “The HIMSS Mobile Survey showed that the biggest barrier to mobile technology use in healthcare was lack of funding”

Currently the world of hospital wireless networking is moving extremely fast and there are many discussions and concerns about how to meet the demands for wireless. With new mobile devices constantly coming out and programs like BYOD becoming more and more commonplace, hospital IT departments and administrators must start to plan now for mobility.

If you have any questions or comments regarding your hospital wireless network or would like to start discussing a mobility strategy that is right for you, please get in touch with us here, we’d love to speak with you about how we can help analyze and optimize your hospital wifi today!

banner offering free download of wireless network design kit

Related Posts

See all posts