Networks Europe Jul-Aug 2019 - Page 29

NETWORKING 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 entire hospital. 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 29 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. Electrical considerations 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. Choosing wisely Dedicated standards require professional risk management in hospitals, focusing on implementation and management of IT networks with integrated medical devices and systems.