By Alexandra Nacken, Head of
Marketing for Nexans Advanced
Networking Solutions division
Considerations that must be made
when deploying dedicated networks
for healthcare environments…
When developing a fibre network for a clinic, hospital, or
other medical environments, there are several vital factors to
consider. Limited availability of space for infrastructure, for
example, as well as special requirements and standards that
apply to electrical systems and switches.
Today, digitalisation is helping hospitals to provide
more care services with fewer resources. The resulting
improvements can be seen in many different areas:
patient access, emergency care, collaboration between
medical staff, real-time monitoring, remote treatment and
consulting, patient information and entertainment, and
fast, reliable and secure data exchange. Today’s increasing
reliance on digital data and applications means that the
network and connected equipment are the backbone of the
Network devices and other electrical equipment, however,
can introduce all kinds of undesirable side effects, such
as disturbances, electromagnetic interference and power
surges. If this occurs in an environment shared with highly
sensitive medical equipment, the results can be problematic,
even potentially life-threatening. Wherever powered devices
operate in the vicinity of patients, extremely stringent
safety regulations apply. Assessing this equipment against
regulatory requirements requires a more rigorous approach
than usual, to make absolutely sure that all potential risks
have identified and sufficiently dealt with.
Any electrical device can potentially expose people to
electric currents. However, in medical applications where
patients who already have a weaker constitution may be
directly connected to these devices, won’t have the same
kind of protection and insulation people would have in other
circumstances. As with any other type of electrical network,
there’s always a risk – however small – of momentary
overvoltages, for example, caused by lightning.
Requirements for the electrical safety of medical
equipment are far more stringent than those for other
electrical devices for a variety of reasons. A patient might be
conductively connected to electronic circuitry, for example,
an ECG monitoring setup, or even connected to several
medical devices at the same time. When an extremely low
voltage is on contact with highly conducive internal tissue,
fatal leakage currents can still occur.
Earthing requirements are, therefore, especially strict.
Furthermore, devices are expected to operate normally in
abnormal conditions. One way of implementing electrical
safety in medical electrical equipment is physical circuit
separation, demonstrated by dielectric strength tests.
Transformer and circuit board designs need to allow
sufficient room to ensure sufficient separation.
Dedicated standards require professional risk management in
hospitals, focusing on implementation and management of
IT networks with integrated medical devices and systems.