Securing Wireless E-Records

    Date13 Dec 2004
    Posted ByJoe Shakespeare
    Few understand how tough it can be to lock down wireless networks better than Stephen Lewack, director of technical services and communications at Columbus Regional Healthcare System. Lewack is protecting a growing number of wireless devices throughout the Georgia hospital, which includes more than 400 in-patient beds, more than 200 long-term care beds, and a pharmacy.

    Since 2002, the hospital has been moving away from paper-based processes, instead electronically tracking and sharing patient information such as medical reports, test results, and X-rays. Wireless access to electronic medical records improves the productivity of clinical staff and even the quality of patient care, Lewack says. "People can access the information they need wherever they happen to be," he says.

    But that wireless convenience and productivity come with the burden of keeping sensitive patient information secure. "We didn't want to hinder the adoption of these devices by telling [people] what devices they had to use," Lewack says, so one of the first steps he took was to require hospital workers who want to use wireless devices to register them with the technical and communications services office before they use them to access the network.

    The ease with which wireless devices such as PDAs, notebooks, and tablets connect to local access points can make it tough to ensure that only authorized devices are granted entry. This, combined with the many attacks that make it possible to snoop on data that's transmitted wirelessly, caused Columbus Regional Healthcare to turn to Fortress Technologies' AirFortress wireless-security gateways to protect its Cisco Systems' wireless infrastructure for more than 1,000 hospital workers.

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