How Much Bandwidth Does Your Facility Need?

From clinics to nursing homes to healthcare systems, every organization is working to put enough broadband capability in place to create and sustain reliable connectivity at their facilities -- but how much do you need?

While there are commonalities, including the critical need to support Electronic Medical Records and data security, the amount of bandwidth your facility can get complex. It comes down to individual needs, i.e., your number of employees, locations, as well as input from your local service provider. 

Here are several factors to consider as you work with your provider to estimate the amount of bandwidth your facility or organization needs.

Speed vs. Bandwidth

Generally, getting a higher bandwidth will often mean better speeds because you are increasing the size of your “pipe.” 

Just a reminder, bandwidth refers to the rate of data transfer in a network, measured in megabits per second, and speed is a megabit rate of the circuit itself.

Number of Users

Determining the number of users is important in assessing your bandwidth needs -- who’s relying on your facility’s connectivity every day? 

If you’re a large system, which can mean hundreds of employees, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends a minimum 1000 Mbps.  

According to the FCC, hospitals and large medical centers with at least 1000 Mbps can support their Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, management functions such as email and web browsing, real-time image transfers, remote monitoring, and makes HD video consultations possible.

On the other end, for nursing homes, the FCC recommends a minimum 10 Mbps bandwidth to support light internet use, allow simultaneous use of EHR and high-quality video consultations, and enable non real-time image downloads and remote monitoring.

A small rural clinic or private practice with less than 5 physicians requires at least 10 Mbps while a facility with 5-25 physicians a minimum 25 Mbps to support its network.  But a facility with as much staff as a hospital is looking at a minimum 100 Mbps requirement, says the FCC.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The increased use of smart devices at health care facilities have meant faster and more efficient hospital facility operations, enabling effective communications, lower costs and improved patient outcomes.

But these internet-enabled devices or loT (Internet of Things) require increasing bandwidth. 

That’s why a broadband assessment should take into account the number of internet-enabled diagnostic tools, monitors and computers, as well as personal phones, tablets and computers used at your facility.

Type of Use

In the same vain, some internet applications, such as web browsing and instant messaging, require low bandwidth, while other applications such as video streaming, VoiP calls and medical data processing require intensive bandwidth usage.

Your provider can help you calculate a per user, per use, bandwidth requirements for your facility. This will allow you to ensure your organization has enough bandwidth to support your users, their applications and medical devices to effectively process data and complete their day to day activities. With Options like Dedicated Fiber Internet, you’re able to easily scale your bandwidth to match your current needs and increase in the future as needed.  

Hardware and Storage

The FCC also pointed to locations, real-time transactions, hardware and storage technology as factors that help determine bandwidth requirements for healthcare providers.

Jennifer D'Angelo, CIO of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, a 1,070-bed hospital with a clinical affiliation with New Brunswick, N.J.-based Rutgers, acknowledges that the “enhanced use of EHR functionality not only causes bandwidth increases but also storage increases.”

“Proactive planning is critical to the growth process,” she said in a blog posted in Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report.