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12 Sep 2016

NHS Free Wi-Fi Adoption. What about Security?

In our last NHS blog post, back in April 2016, we spoke about Jeremy Hunt’s plan to introduce Free Wi-Fi access across all NHS hospitals within the UK by 2020.

Now, however, we have learnt that many NHS trusts have already started to implement this service, which has brought with it a whole host of benefits to both staff and patients.

 The first benefit we are set to see is an overall improvement to the health care service where staff are concerned. By implementing wireless networking NHS staff will be able to work more efficiently, leading to a reduction in administrative tasks which will free up clinical time by being able to process patients data faster, preferably by a tablet device at their bedside, ultimately lowering overall healthcare costs.

The biggest benefit of all, however, is that of the NHS being able to provide a more positive patient experience, after all, no one enjoys a hospital stay.

By implementing a new guest Wi-Fi network the NHS is allowing its patients to connect to their free Wi-Fi through the use of their smartphones, tablets or other devices, letting them keep in touch with the outside world during what can be a stressful and anxious period. 

Patients will easily be able to surf the internet, communicate through social media or send and receive emails helping to reduce the patient's feeling of isolation that can build up during long or frequent hospital stays and lead to improved patient recovery times.

Not only that but free Wi-Fi will also be an important benefit to young children, who will be able to access educational materials helping them keep up to date with school work while they are in the hospital or just to have some entertainment during waiting times.

The Downside

Unfortunately, there is one clear drawback when it comes to the rollout of NHS guest Wi-Fi and this is based on the security risks that will come with this service.

Many NHS staff and some patients still view wireless networks as less secure than wired and in an age where the NHS is coming under increasing scrutiny when it comes to data loss, and has the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ready to impose fines for any breach of the Data Protection Act, the idea of having an open network for anyone to use can scare even the technologically savvy.

As a result of this, the healthcare network will need to be able to adapt and become more dynamic, which in turn will bring forward the challenge of knowing which users and which devices are connected to their network and monitoring who can have access to which data.

Most hospitals will already have a static network segmentation in place to try and combat these issues, but having a wired VLAN assignment, as it was used previously, will no longer be sufficient in this modern technology environment.

Instead, hospitals now need to deploy a solution that can run in real-time and one that can support dynamic segmentation based on the user, device, and location and compliance status of the devices.

The NHS are dedicated to ensuring that the principles and duties of safeguarding adults and children are holistically, consistently and conscientiously applied with the wellbeing of all.

It’s at the heart of what they do.

So by implementing a new solution that can meet and fulfil the above requirements will help the NHS ensure they are meeting their safeguarding responsibilities, whilst also meeting their general duty of care towards their patients.

The Solution

This is where Smoothwall’s healthcare solution becomes best in its class.

The solution, unlike its rivals, allows you to easily build filtering policies based on user, content, time and location giving you full control of what both your patients, clinical and non-clinical staff can see when they're connected to your Wi-Fi network.

Our solution can also identify brand new web content in real-time, long before URL blocklists can pick harmful sites up, meaning your patients and staff are protected from the moment they connect and our Gateway Anti-Malware service can protect your network from web-borne malware attacks which could potential cause medical equipment to fail.

The Smoothwall healthcare service has been expertly designed and developed to cover the aforementioned issues, along with any other key challenges that the NHS may face when embracing the free guest Wi-Fi network.

We also understand that you have a duty of care to uphold and our service is here to keep your network safe and secure, for both your clinical and non-clinical staff, throughout your organisation, helping you to meet regulatory safeguarding requirements for both adults and children that are within your care.

If you would like to find out more about how our healthcare solution can help you stay secure in your NHS Wi-Fi transition, come visit us on stand H492 at this year's Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology (HETT) event, taking place at Olympia London, on 28th September.  

Let us know your thoughts on how free WiFi in healthcare affects your visit, leave your comments below.

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