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How to maintain strong WiFi in decentralized clinical trials

February 24, 2023
Business Affairs Health IT
Roger Sands
By Roger Sands

Decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) are becoming much more popular. Supporting this trend, and the important healthcare information provided by trials, requires healthcare professionals to have reliable and secure WiFi networks available at all times. Here is how to set up optimized networks, and use WiFi automation for cost-effective maintenance.

How to set up a strong WiFi experience
While DCTs take place at least partly in patient homes, it’s common for researchers and other healthcare professionals to be based in one or more central locations. The WiFi networks in these locations are under the supervision of healthcare IT teams, and must be top-notch to support research goals. Any issues, like network downtime or interference, can cause expensive delays and frustrate users.

Follow these steps to ensure your building has the best WiFi network:
1. Site survey. If you are moving into a new building, performing a site survey is an important step. This survey will identify any possible areas of network interference and determine where to best install access points. Even if there is an existing network onsite, a site survey is still required. There’s no guarantee that an existing network design will support healthcare needs and devices. Similarly, if researchers have been in the same building for years, but there’s been a change in the number and types of devices connected to the network, and/or in office layout, the site should be re-surveyed. It might be necessary to update the network design to better accommodate current utilization.

2. Infrastructure. Not all infrastructure supports all user needs. Everything from access points, switches, and controllers must be selected to support the healthcare professionals depending on the network. Make sure all infrastructure is purchased and upgraded with this in mind.

3. SSIDs. Once the network infrastructure is up-and-running, establish multiple SSIDs to ensure security. A good rule is to have one SSID, or network, for employees (this will be the most secure), one for guests, and one as a catch-all for all other uses, including IoT devices. All patient communication and data storage should take place on the employee SSID.

The technologies needed for decentralized clinical trials
The healthcare WiFi network must support:
- Laptops, tablets, and mobile phones used by all onsite professionals
- Telehealth appointments
- All other video calls
- Data retrieval from remote monitoring devices worn by patients
- Data storage of outcome assessments and patient reports
- Patient portals

In other words, these networks lean towards data-intensive utilization. This requires them to be robust. How do you keep them that way? By following best practices for network maintenance and optimization:

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