Ixia White Paper: Testing Wi-Fi for Medical Devices

May 29, 2013, 9:43 am

A white paper from David Hoglund, an expert on Wi-Fi in hospitals, discusses the challenges of ensuring that Wi-Fi on medical devices operates reliably in a hospital. The key to ensuring reliable operation, says Hoglund, is testing.

The paper opens by discussing why connecting medical devices to hospital Wi-Fi networks can be difficult. One of the challenges is that the use of Wi-Fi on medical devices is still relatively new, and IT professional in hospitals are unfamiliar with some of the issues that they may encounter. According to Hoglund, those grappling with Wi-Fi for the first time “don’t know what they don’t know,” both from an internal design and a deployment perspective. Like Laird white papers, Hoglund’s paper provides valuable insight to hospital IT staff.

Another challenge that hospitals face is the common misconception that the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ seal on a medical device means that the device will work seamlessly in a hospital environment. Hoglund makes the case that mobile medical devices require much more stringent testing than is required for a basic certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance. For example, the Wi-Fi Alliance does not test that a device will roam seamlessly from one access point to another while maintaining enterprise-grade security. Medical device manufacturers must assess the quality of the Wi-Fi radio in meeting requirements such as roaming, security, and quality of service.

In order to avoid regulatory and financial penalties, medical device manufacturers must keep up with changes in the Wi-Fi infrastructures used in hospitals. Infrastructure manufacturers refresh firmware and software much more frequently than mobile medical device manufacturers send out updates. If device makers don’t conduct regression testing with the latest infrastructure firmware and software, then they cannot verify that their devices continue to work “as intended”. Regression testing must be done for the life of the medical device, which can be a decade. As Hoglund writes, “A definitive need exists for strategic validation and verification strategies and ‘Best Practices’ that begin early on in designing new devices and continue beyond product launch and deployment.”

To mitigate risks, mobile medical device manufacturers must implement more stringent testing practices than those used for general-purpose computing devices. Done properly, testing in controlled lab environments will help to ensure reliable performance in hospitals.

Laird Technologies does just that. Keep an eye out for Laird’s upcoming white paper on this topic.