The Future of Healthcare: Wireless Surveys for Hospitals

The Future of Healthcare: Wireless Surveys for Hospitals

The importance of a reliable wireless network cannot be overstated. The focus of our exploration is the indispensable role of wireless surveys in ensuring the optimum operation of these networks within healthcare facilities. Given the critical nature of patient care, the ability to maintain uninterrupted connectivity for vital medical devices and foster seamless communication between medical staff has become a priority. Wireless surveys for hospitals serve as a pivotal tool in identifying areas of weak signal strength, interference, or dead zones, thereby facilitating strategic placement of access points and networking equipment. This not only enhances patient care but also increases operational efficiency, making the process of conducting a wireless survey for hospitals a key procedure in today’s healthcare infrastructure.

Our intent with this article is to delve into the nuances of wireless surveys, highlighting their significance and the benefits they offer to healthcare establishments. Through sections focusing on understanding wireless surveys, addressing key challenges in hospital wireless networks, and detailing the process from planning and prep work to analysing survey data and implementing insights, we aim to provide a comprehensive guide. We will also discuss the importance of ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure that the wireless infrastructure remains robust and responsive to the evolving demands of healthcare environments. By integrating topics such as wifi surveys, wifi site surveys, and wireless site surveys into our discussion, our goal is to equip IT professionals and healthcare administrators with the knowledge and tools they need to optimise their wireless infrastructure, thereby supporting the critical tasks of patient monitoring and ensuring efficient communication among medical staff.

Understanding Wireless Surveys

In the realm of hospital operations, the implementation of a wireless survey for hospitals is a critical step toward establishing a robust and reliable wireless network. Here’s an in-depth look at what it entails:

Key Objectives of Wireless Surveys:

  • Assessing Radio Wave Behaviour: Before the installation of access points, it’s crucial to understand how radio waves propagate within the unique environment of a hospital. This involves examining how walls, equipment, and even people affect signal strength and connectivity.
  • Optimal Access Point Placement: The primary aim of conducting a wireless survey is to determine the precise number and strategic placement of access points to ensure comprehensive coverage across the hospital facility.
  • RF Interference Mitigation: Hospitals are often a maze of complex structures, which can cause radio-frequency interference. Identifying these interference sources is essential to maintain a clear, reliable signal for critical healthcare operations.

Benefits of Wireless Surveys:

  • Critical for Hospital Efficiency: Reliable wireless connectivity underpins vital hospital functions, such as real-time patient monitoring and communication among staff. A wireless site survey ensures that these operations proceed without interruption.
  • Network Optimisation: By pinpointing weak signal areas and interference zones, wireless surveys enable healthcare facilities to refine their wireless infrastructure, thereby enhancing patient care and improving staff collaboration.

Challenges in Hospital Wireless Environments:

  • Interference from Medical Devices: The plethora of medical equipment in hospitals can interfere with wireless signals, leading to potential degradation in signal quality and transmission speed, which can be addressed through a wifi site survey.
  • Complex Architectures: Achieving reliable coverage throughout the various floors, wings, and rooms of a hospital is a daunting task due to the intricate architectural designs.
  • Security Concerns: Protecting sensitive patient data from unauthorised access is paramount, and wireless surveys can help reinforce network security to comply with HIPAA regulations.

Best Practices for Wireless Surveys:

  • Engage Expertise: It’s important to involve IT professionals who specialise in wireless networking and understand the intricacies of hospital requirements.
  • Area-Specific Considerations: Different hospital zones, from critical care units to administrative offices, have unique wireless needs that must be evaluated.
  • Realistic Testing Conditions: Conducting the survey during normal hospital operations can provide an accurate picture of the network’s performance under typical conditions.

Tools Required for a Wireless Survey:

  • Wireless Survey Software: To map out signal strength and identify potential interference.
  • Hardware: Laptops or mobile devices to run the software, and wireless access points to test the signal.
  • Analysers: A wireless spectrum analyser can help detect sources of RFI, ensuring a thorough assessment.
  • Measurement and Documentation: Accurate measurement tools for physical distances and comprehensive documentation tools to record findings are indispensable for a successful survey.

By adhering to these guidelines and utilising the right tools, hospitals can conduct effective wireless surveys that lead to improved wireless network performance, ultimately contributing to better patient outcomes and streamlined healthcare delivery.

Key Challenges in Hospital Wireless Networks

One of the primary hurdles in establishing a robust wireless network in hospitals is the Inadequate Design and Fragmented Infrastructure. A poorly designed WLAN is often unable to support the high demands of a medical environment. This is further complicated when Wi-Fi is implemented in stages, resulting in a fragmented system that struggles to function cohesively. To overcome these challenges, a comprehensive wireless survey for hospitals is essential in identifying and rectifying these structural issues.

Challenges Posed by the Physical Environment include:

  • Building Materials: Hospitals are constructed with materials like masonry and concrete, which can significantly block or weaken RF signals.
  • Interference from Metal Objects and Devices: The presence of metal and the use of medical Wi-Fi devices, especially on the 2.4GHz spectrum, can lead to signal interference, disrupting essential services.

The Quantity and Diversity of Devices in a hospital setting also pose a significant challenge. With an ever-increasing number of wireless-enabled devices, including biomedical equipment and smartphones, bandwidth becomes a critical resource. IT professionals must manage not only the hardware but also ensure that device drivers are up-to-date, which can be a complex task given the pace of manufacturer updates.

VoWLAN Issues that impact hospitals include:

  • Seamless Handoffs: The inability of the WLAN to provide smooth transitions between access points can result in dropped calls, which is unacceptable in critical healthcare communications.

  • Voice Quality: WLAN throughput problems can lead to jittery voice connections and poor voice quality, hindering effective communication within the hospital.

To address Security and Regulatory Compliance, hospitals must enforce policies that ensure all devices, especially user-owned ones, comply with HIPAA standards for protecting sensitive data. This is a non-negotiable aspect of healthcare that a wifi survey can help secure by identifying potential network vulnerabilities.

The Outdated Infrastructure and High Demand for internet access in hospitals are compounded by regulations that make upgrades challenging. When thousands of users access the network simultaneously, it’s crucial to manage the traffic effectively to prioritise critical internet tasks.

Physical Barriers such as medical equipment, including radiation and MRI machines, can emit signals that interfere with network connectivity. It’s vital to identify these barriers during a wifi site survey to ensure uninterrupted network service.

Lastly, Reliability is paramount in a hospital’s wireless network. Regular network assessments and the use of management tools that prioritise performance, security, and accessibility are key to achieving a reliable network that supports the hospital’s critical functions.

Benefits of Conducting Wireless Surveys

Conducting a wireless survey for hospitals is a crucial step towards a state-of-the-art healthcare delivery system. Here’s how these surveys provide a multitude of benefits:

  • Reliable Network Performance: A wireless survey is the first line of defence in ensuring that the wireless network within a healthcare facility is reliable and efficient. By identifying areas with weak signals, interference, or complete dead zones, we can take informed steps to eliminate these issues, ensuring that vital medical devices maintain uninterrupted connectivity. This is not just a matter of convenience; it’s about patient safety and care. (Fortitude NicSA)

  • Enhanced Patient Care and Staff Collaboration: When we optimise our network infrastructure through wireless surveys, we’re not only boosting coverage and reliability; we’re also enhancing the overall patient care experience. Seamless communication between medical staff means faster response times in emergencies, improved collaboration, and a more streamlined approach to healthcare delivery.

  • Strategic Access Point Placement: Through the insights gained from wireless surveys, we can strategically place access points and networking equipment. This thoughtful placement is key to optimising the network infrastructure, which, in turn, creates a more robust and responsive wireless environment for all users in the hospital.

  • Minimised Downtime: By troubleshooting and diagnosing network issues efficiently, wireless surveys help us minimise downtime. This allows IT staff to save valuable time and focus on other critical tasks, ensuring that the hospital’s operations run smoothly without interruption.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of wireless surveys became even more pronounced. They played a critical role in combating the pandemic by enabling healthcare providers to communicate effectively without the need for cables, which was crucial for maintaining social distancing protocols. (NCBI)

Moreover, wireless technologies monitored patients’ health, delivered drugs, disinfected rooms, and improved the overall efficacy of healthcare systems during the crisis. Ensuring that these services are rapid and safe for both patients and healthcare providers, whether within hospitals or remote areas, is a direct benefit of conducting regular wireless surveys. (Utilities One)

In a broader business context, regular WiFi site surveys are essential due to the increasing number of WiFi hotspots and the growing need for fast and reliable connections. These surveys help identify problem areas, minimise both direct and indirect costs, protect productivity, meet security needs, and ensure adequate bandwidth for all necessary operations. (NEC New Zealand)

To sum up the benefits of conducting wireless surveys in bullet points:

  • Network Optimisation:

    • Ensures comprehensive coverage and connectivity for medical devices.
    • Improves communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals.

  • Operational Efficiency:

    • Reduces network-related downtime.
    • Saves time for IT staff with proactive troubleshooting.

  • Patient Care:

    • Supports critical healthcare applications and patient monitoring systems.
    • Facilitates rapid and safe health services.

  • Pandemic Response:

    • Enables contactless communication and operations.
    • Supports remote patient monitoring and care.

  • Business Continuity:

    • Identifies and resolves network issues to minimise fallout from disasters.
    • Ensures the network can handle the increasing load and variety of devices.

By thoroughly understanding and implementing the insights from wireless surveys, hospitals can lay the foundation for a network that supports coverage needs, device capacity, data rates, seamless roaming, quality of service, and more, thereby fortifying the future of healthcare.

Planning and Preparing for the Survey

Before embarking on a wireless survey for hospitals, it’s imperative to meticulously plan and prepare to ensure the wireless network meets the specific needs of a healthcare environment. Here are the key steps to get ready for a successful wireless survey:

1. Define Wireless Requirements

  • Assess Needs: Determine the necessary speeds, bandwidth, and the number of client devices that will simultaneously connect to the network. This will guide the overall design and capacity of the wireless infrastructure.

  • Emerging Trends: Consider how the network will support current and future trends such as IoT integration, location-based services, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

  • Wi-Fi 6E Consideration: Decide if implementing Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) is beneficial for the hospital to achieve the fastest speeds and accommodate a higher density of devices.

2. Preliminary Site Analysis

  • Facility Diagram: Obtain an up-to-date facility diagram, including building blueprints or fire escape plans, to understand the layout and potential challenges.

  • Visual Inspection: Conduct a thorough visual inspection to confirm the accuracy of the facility diagram and note any discrepancies.

  • Barrier Identification: During the inspection, identify potential barriers that could attenuate the wireless signal such as thick walls, metal structures, and medical equipment.

3. Infrastructure and Coverage Assessment

  • Current Network: Evaluate the existing wired network to ensure it can support the new wireless infrastructure.

  • Coverage Areas: Pinpoint specific areas within the facility where Wi-Fi coverage is critical, such as patient rooms, operating theatres, and common areas.

  • Access Point Placement: Based on the coverage needs, determine preliminary locations for access points to provide adequate coverage.

4. On-Site Wireless Survey Preparation

  • Business Hours Survey: Plan to conduct the wireless site survey during peak business hours to capture an accurate representation of the network usage when the hospital is at full operation.

  • Usage Understanding: Gain a clear understanding of the wireless network’s intended use to ensure it meets the needs of various hospital functions.

  • Legacy Device Support: Acknowledge the need to support legacy medical devices that may not be compatible with newer wireless standards.

5. RF Environment Considerations

  • Complex RF Environment: Acknowledge the complexity of the hospital’s RF environment, which includes unique obstructions such as lead-lined walls and the presence of liquids and human bodies that can affect signal propagation.

  • Interference Mapping: Systematically move throughout the hospital with a spectrum analyser to locate and document sources of RF interference or noise on the facility diagram.

  • Optimal AP Placement: Base the final access point placement on the site survey findings, considering the cell size of Wi-Fi coverage to minimise channel overlap and optimise data throughput.

By following these steps, we lay the groundwork for a wireless site survey that is thorough and tailored to the unique demands of a hospital setting. Proper planning and preparation are the cornerstones of establishing a reliable Wi-Fi network that can handle the critical needs of healthcare facilities, ensuring both operational efficiency and the delivery of high-quality patient care.

Performing the Wireless Survey

Performing the wireless survey for hospitals is a meticulous process that involves several critical steps to ensure the wireless network meets the specific demands of a healthcare facility. Here’s how to carry out this essential task:

Step-by-Step Process of Performing a Wireless Survey:

  1. Initial Setup and Inspection:

    • Secure a detailed blueprint of the building to guide the survey.

    • Use a spectrum analyser to detect and document RF interference, noting the affected channels directly on the blueprint.

    • Visually inspect the facility to ensure the diagram’s accuracy, paying special attention to potential barriers that could impact signal strength.

  2. Access Point Placement and Testing:

    • On the blueprint, strategically place potential access points (APs), considering the cell size to avoid channel overlap.

    • Utilise specialised antennas to maximise coverage in areas where standard solutions are ineffective.

    • Test preliminary AP locations using wireless site survey software to assess coverage quality and detect any RF interference.

  3. Data Collection and Modelling:

    • Document all findings, including recommended mounting locations and signal readings, on the facility diagrams.

    • Create an accurate predictive model for the wireless network, factoring in the floor plan, building materials, and the presence of medical equipment.

    • Incorporate design considerations for materials that could cause multipath, reflection, refraction, and absorption of the RF signal.

Key Considerations:

  • Hospital-Specific Requirements:

    • Account for interference from medical equipment and ensure patient privacy is protected.

    • Adhere to healthcare regulations like HIPAA to maintain the integrity of sensitive patient data.

  • Network Design and Compliance:

    • Assess the existing network infrastructure to ensure it can support the new wireless setup.

    • Identify all critical coverage areas, such as offices, hallways, and stairwells, to maintain connectivity throughout the facility.

  • Access Point Configuration:

    • Determine the best mounting locations, antenna types, and cable installations for each AP.

    • After installation, power on the APs and let them run for at least 24 hours to observe performance.

  • Safety and Device Support:

    • Attend a safety class and wear appropriate PPE during the survey.

    • Understand the Health IT devices supported by the network, focusing on types, applications, and security capabilities.

  • Deployment and Monitoring:

    • Prepare a list of hardware required for the design and a comprehensive guide for the installation.

    • Connect Power over Ethernet (PoE) to APs and register them with the wireless controller.

    • Customise settings for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios to optimise performance.

    • Conduct onsite visits during deployment to ensure proper installation and verify the location of APs.

By following these steps, IT professionals can perform a thorough wifi survey that will lead to a well-designed and reliable hospital wireless network. This network will not only support current healthcare operations but also adapt to future technological advancements, ensuring the hospital remains at the forefront of patient care and operational efficiency.

Analysing and Interpreting Survey Data

After conducting a thorough wireless survey for hospitals, the next critical step is analysing and interpreting the survey data. This process involves several key actions:

Examining Survey Results for Optimal Network Performance

  • Identify Weak Zones: Pinpoint areas where signal strength is low or non-existent. These could be critical care areas or places with heavy medical equipment usage.

  • Interference Sources: Locate and document sources of interference, which could range from other electronic devices to structural features like lead-lined walls.

  • Data Utilisation for Strategic AP Placement: Utilise the data to determine the best positions for access points, ensuring coverage is both comprehensive and continuous throughout the facility.

Addressing Hospital-Specific Wireless Needs

  • Critical Care Coverage: Ensure that areas requiring the most reliable coverage, such as intensive care units and emergency rooms, are prioritised in the network design.

  • Medical Device Compatibility: Factor in the need to support a wide range of medical devices, adjusting the network to minimise interference and maintain connectivity.

  • HIPAA Compliance: Consider the security requirements to protect patient data, using the survey data to strengthen network defences against potential breaches.

Implementing Network Enhancements

  • Access Point Optimisation: Based on the survey findings, place access points on the blueprint in a manner that accounts for cell size and minimises channel overlap.

  • Antenna Adjustments: Where necessary, deploy specialised antennas to enhance coverage in challenging areas, ensuring no corner of the hospital is left without a signal.

  • Traffic Management: Use network visibility tools to effectively manage the high traffic from diverse sources, including medical devices and personal electronics of staff and visitors.

By carefully analysing the wifi survey data, we can make informed decisions that significantly improve the wireless infrastructure of hospitals. This involves not just placing access points correctly but also configuring them to handle the unique demands of a hospital environment. Ensuring the network is robust enough to support various kinds of traffic is crucial for the seamless operation of mobile medical devices, workstations, and communication tools.

Ultimately, the goal is to leverage the insights from the wireless survey to create a wireless network that is both reliable and secure, catering to the specific needs of healthcare providers and patients alike. With the right tools and techniques, we can ensure that the wireless site survey data leads to a network that enhances hospital operations and supports the delivery of top-notch patient care.

Implementing Survey Insights

Implementing the insights from a wireless survey for hospitals is a multi-faceted process that is integral for ensuring a robust and secure wireless network. Here’s how to translate the survey data into actionable improvements:

Implementing Wireless Survey Insights

  1. Addressing Diverse Network Needs

    • Clinical Communications: Ensure that the wireless network supports the high bandwidth required for the seamless exchange of clinical communications.

    • Medical Devices: Use network access control (NAC) to isolate and monitor medical devices, preventing unauthorised access and ensuring uninterrupted connectivity.

    • Medical Records: Implement strong encryption and secure login protocols to protect patient data as it moves across the network.

  2. Optimising Network Performance and Coverage

    • Security and Compliance: Incorporate advanced security measures to guard against cyber threats and maintain compliance with healthcare regulations.

    • Performance: Enhance the network’s capacity to handle the high volume of data traffic typical in hospital settings.

    • Critical Availability: Establish redundant network pathways and backup systems to ensure network availability during emergencies.

    • Coverage: Use the survey data to adjust the placement of access points, eliminating dead zones and providing consistent coverage throughout the facility.

  3. Following Best Practices for Wireless Networks in Healthcare

    • Gather Detailed Requirements: Collect comprehensive information about the network’s users, applications, and medical devices to tailor the wireless solution to the hospital’s specific needs.

    • Design for 5GHz and Voice: Prioritise the deployment of 5GHz networks to accommodate the density of devices and ensure high-quality voice communications.

    • Validate the Design: After implementing changes, conduct validation surveys to confirm that the network performs as expected under real-world conditions.

    • Maintain a Clean RF Environment: Regularly monitor and manage the RF environment to prevent and quickly resolve any interference issues.

  4. Ensuring Long-Term Network Health

    • Ongoing Management: Employ network management tools to continuously monitor network performance and user experience.

    • Optimisation: Adjust network settings and configurations as needed to maintain optimal performance as the hospital’s needs evolve.

    • Regular RF Validation Surveys: Schedule and conduct regular RF validation surveys to ensure the network remains efficient and reliable over time.

By meticulously implementing the findings from a wireless site survey, hospitals can significantly enhance their wireless infrastructure. This leads to better support for healthcare applications, improved patient care, and a more efficient work environment for medical professionals. Additionally, adhering to best practices for hospital Wi-Fi networks ensures that the wireless network remains compliant with industry standards and regulations, while also being well-equipped to adapt to future advancements in healthcare technology.

Ongoing Monitoring and Maintenance

To maintain a high-performing hospital wireless network, ongoing monitoring and maintenance are essential. Here’s how we can ensure that our wireless infrastructure remains reliable, secure, and capable of handling the demands of a busy healthcare environment:

Regular Network Performance Checks

  • Reliability and Security: Schedule routine checks to assess the wireless network’s reliability and security, ensuring that it can handle sensitive mission-critical data transfer with ease.

  • Capacity and Coverage: Verify that the network has sufficient capacity to manage the number of connected devices and that coverage extends to all necessary areas of the hospital.

Network Management and Visibility Tools

  • Control Access: Implement network management solutions to regulate device access, preventing unwanted traffic and prioritising essential data flow.

  • Identify Malfunctions and Breaches: Use network visibility tools to detect any potential malfunctions or data breaches swiftly.

  • System Updates: Take advantage of low-usage periods to perform system updates without disrupting hospital operations.

Proactive Network Assessments

  • Performance Issues: Conduct regular network assessments to pinpoint any interference, high-density user areas, or applications that demand excessive bandwidth.

  • Equipment and Security: Check for low-powered devices and inadequate security measures that could compromise network performance.

  • Infrastructure Clean-Up: Clean network closets, racks, and switches to prevent issues and improve manageability.

Design and Security Enhancements

  • Fault-Tolerant Networks: Design fault-tolerant networks that can withstand interfering elements and meet the bandwidth demands of high-density user areas.

  • Security Measures: Prioritise the use of up-to-date firmware and equipment to safeguard against cyber threats.

  • Access Point Expansion: Increase points of access by adding more access points or upgrading existing ones to higher capacities in areas with high demand.

Infrastructure Updates

  • Regular Equipment Updates: Keep network equipment and infrastructure up-to-date to ensure optimal performance and robust security against evolving threats.

By following these steps and utilising tools like network management solutions and network visibility tools, we can not only conduct a successful wireless survey for hospitals but also maintain the network’s health over time. This ongoing process is critical in supporting the myriad of devices and applications that rely on the hospital’s wireless network, ultimately contributing to the delivery of high-quality patient care and efficient healthcare services.

Our Thoughts & Actions

Throughout this article, we’ve explored the critical role wireless surveys play in optimising hospital networks to meet the distinct demands of modern healthcare environments. The insights derived from these surveys are invaluable, leading to strategic placement of access points, mitigation of interference, and ensuring a reliable, secure connection for the myriad of devices essential to patient care and staff communication. By implementing these findings, hospitals can significantly enhance the efficiency of their operations and the overall quality of care they provide.

As healthcare technology continues to evolve and integrate further into hospital infrastructures, the importance of routine wireless surveys cannot be overstated. They not only facilitate the necessary adaptation to new technologies but also uphold the highest standards of network performance and security. In essence, wireless surveys are not merely a one-time solution but a cornerstone of continuous improvement for healthcare institutions committed to excellence in an ever-changing digital landscape.


What is the impact of wireless health monitoring on healthcare? Wireless health monitoring will significantly affect healthcare by enabling real-time tracking of patient vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. Healthcare providers can receive immediate alerts and act swiftly if there are any concerning changes in a patient’s condition.

What does the future hold for healthcare? The future of healthcare in 2024 is expected to focus on reducing administrative burdens, enhancing clinicians’ decision-making, improving the efficiency of medical research, and employing advanced learning tools to train healthcare workers more effectively.

What are the uses of wireless communication in healthcare? Wireless communication in healthcare allows for active monitoring of patient vital signs across hospital settings. Projects like HEARTS aim to support the prevention and monitoring of heart disease through cutting-edge technology.

What is the anticipated future of IoT in healthcare? The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to make a significant impact on healthcare, offering the potential to transform patient care and overhaul healthcare delivery. IoT medical devices can collect real-time data, which AI algorithms can then analyse to provide personalised healthcare insights.

How has wireless technology affected patient care in hospitals? Wireless technology has improved patient monitoring and care by enabling healthcare professionals to remotely track vital signs and other health metrics. This leads to increased patient comfort and mobility, as they are not restricted to staying in bed for monitoring.

Why is wireless internet crucial in healthcare settings? Wireless internet is vital in healthcare because it streamlines workflows and documentation processes, allowing healthcare professionals to access and update patient records at the point of care using wireless devices like tablets and smartphones.

How will technology change healthcare in the future? Technology is set to digitally transform healthcare, influencing the delivery of services, enhancing patient outcomes, and reducing costs through the use of telemedicine, wearable devices, and artificial intelligence.

What will healthcare look like by 2030? By 2030, healthcare will need to be consumer-centric due to significant demographic shifts influencing the demand and delivery of services.

How does wireless communication aid medical professionals in hospitals? Wireless communication boosts efficiency and productivity among medical professionals by enabling seamless communication through devices like smartphones and tablets. This leads to improved collaboration, coordination, and quicker decision-making, which enhances workflow and patient care.

How is the IoT transforming healthcare? The IoT is changing healthcare by facilitating interventions such as hand sanitation reminders when entering hospital rooms, with devices providing specific instructions to minimise risks for particular patients.

What are the major concerns with implementing IoT in healthcare? A significant concern with IoT in healthcare is security. Each IoT device connected to the internet could potentially be exploited by hackers, leading to the disclosure of patient information, disruption of other systems, and, most critically, compromising patient safety.