Biggest internet bandwidth is always desirable, but every practice has different internet connection needs.
How your office uses the internet, mobile devices and EHR systems directly impacts the amount of internet bandwidth you may need from your internet service provider (ISP).
A slow bandwidth may prevent your internet applications from working properly. Carefully consider how your office uses online systems and you will be able to choose the best internet bandwidth for your practice’s needs.
Practice size may determine your needs
If you have a smaller solo practice with a small number of staff members, your needs will likely differ from those of a bigger, multi-physician or multi-specialty practice. When your practice grows, you will probably need to upgrade to a larger bandwidth.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests that healthcare providers choose more bandwidth for larger practices.¹ As the number of staff members accessing the internet increases, practices typically need more bandwidth to allow for more EHR users. Medical charts and patient test results, x-rays and other data tend to require additional bandwidth than standard internet use and may strain your internet services.
Internet bandwidth recommendations
Internet bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), with a higher number indicating a larger bandwidth.¹ The larger the bandwidth, the more data can be downloaded per second and the higher your app and browsing speeds likely will be. Upload speeds may be slower than download speeds.
For these typical internet activities, the FCC says these minimum bandwidth levels are best:¹
- Web Browsing—1.0 Mbps
- EHR (Text-only)—0.025 Mbps
- Video Conferencing—2.0 Mbps
- HD Video Conferencing—10.0 Mbps or higher
Your office may need higher bandwidth levels than those listed above or may be able to get by with less. If you are using an EHR system, contact your vendor and ask what bandwidth they recommend. For a typical practice, you can estimate the amount of bandwidth you need for these activities based on the number of practitioners in your office.
The FCC recommends these bandwidth levels:¹
- Solo Practice—4.0 Mbps or higher
- Small Practice (2 to 4 physicians)—10.0 Mbps or higher
- Large Practice/Clinic (5 to 25 physicians)—25.0 Mbps or higher
Your clinic size usually determines approximately how many users will be online at the same time. Higher bandwidth levels are more capable of supporting multiple users. As technology changes and improves, higher bandwidth levels become available and your software may soon require a higher bandwidth in order to provide your practice with advanced services and features. Your ISP can help you understand how much bandwidth you will likely need.
Improving your bandwidth speeds
If your bandwidth is too slow or your software is struggling to perform, you may need to ask your ISP about other service options. Higher bandwidth levels may be more expensive and it is best to shop around and consider multiple ISPs whenever possible.
The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) created a website, The National Broadband Map, allowing you to search for local broadband services by zip code. Using this site, you can also compare internet access and speeds between different areas. If more than one local option is available, contact each company to compare features and pricing.
If you want to know how much bandwidth you already have, many measurement websites allow you to test your connection for free. Two popular bandwidth testing tools include CNET’s Internet Speed Test and Ookla’s Speed Test. Once you know your bandwidth, you can compare it with averages for your area and other locations around the United States.
Know what you need
Based on your practice’s usage, you can determine how much bandwidth you need and know what to ask your ISP. Check your bandwidth occasionally to make sure you are receiving the full bandwidth level you are paying for and to ensure that your current level is meeting your needs.
1 Federal Communications Commission. “Health Care Broadband in America: Early Analysis and a Path Forward.” http://download.broadband.gov/plan/fcc-omnibus-broadband-initiative-%28obi%29-working-reports-series-technical-paper-health-care-broadband-in-america.pdf. Published August 2010. Accessed December 2015.