Installing access points in healthcare facilities
This article describes considerations for installation access points in Healthcare Facilities.
The Joint Commission, which is the body that accredits healthcare facilities, has established requirements for mitigating the spread of infectious disease and contaminants. One of these requirements limits access to the to the air-handling (plenum) space above suspended ceilings. If work is to be performed above the suspended ceiling, requiring that ceiling tiles are lifted or moved, it is necessary to “tent-off” the work area using plastic sheets, or a moveable Negative Air-Pressure Enclosure (NAPE). The tented area needs to ventilated and the air filtered by a HEPA filter. This process is time-consuming, and may be disruptive to work flow in the vicinity. Unfortunately, this space above or in the suspended ceiling is precisely where wireless access points are located, due to preferred wireless coverage from the ceiling location. Likewise, the supporting cabling for the wireless is located in this air-handling space.
Recognizing this, the TIA-1179 Healthcare Facility Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard states that “Adding or changing horizontal cabling could result in a net decrease in care being provided, jeopardizing infection control measures or compromising life safety measures”.
Furthermore TIA-1179 indicates that “Infection control requirements (ICR) could have a serious impact on the times and conditions for cabling installation, moves, adds and changes, as well as restrictions to removing ceiling tiles, wall penetrations and access to unoccupied spaces” .
Consideration of this restriction on removing or lifting ceiling tiles suggests that cabling and wireless network designers should examine how wireless access points are installed and secured in healthcare facilities.
Wireless LAN access point ceiling mounted enclosures and mounting solutions offer a convenient means to install and secure the wireless infrastructure. Once the enclosure is installed within the ceiling gridwork, access points can be conveniently serviced and/or replaced, simply by unlocking and opening the enclosure door. Since the air-handling space is not breached, there is no need to “tent-off” the work area. This manifests itself as reduction in maintenance costs, and lessening of the impact on care being provided, both of which are objectives high on the priority list of facilities managers. The enclosure surfaces can also be easily washed down.
TIA 1179 also states that “Telecommunications Enclosures (TEs) providing support for life and safety networks should incorporate additional security measures to restrict unauthorized access to the space”. Workspace TEs and access point enclosures should be lockable, providing that additional security measure specified.
Finally, the standard recognizes ‘that many healthcare installations make use of a number of wireless applications. It is recommended that the wireless environment be characterized and understood prior to the design, choice, and installation of cabling to ensure satisfactory performance”. Indicating that a site survey should be performed as part of the design, and interference sources should be identified.
Additional information on wireless network infrastructure is available at