Network Devices in the Pharmacy
A pharmacies network consists of many different technology pieces. These devices are the lifeblood of the pharmacy. They allow you to communicate with insurances, patients, prescribers and your pharmacy software. It is essential that pharmacy owners and staff know what each device does because if one network device goes down – the whole pharmacy is probably in downtime.
All pharmacy networks have 3 main network devices that support their pharmacy; Router/firewall, modem and switch. These devices may all look similar however there are key differences between them internally and each serve a role on the network. It is important these devices are kept up to date for security reasons. Many pharmacy owners believe their business is not susceptible to outside cyber security threats and sadly they are mistaken. These devices are the first line of defense from security attacks and help keep the pharmacy secure. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Routers/firewalls for Pharmacies
A router is a traffic director of the network, this router usually serves as the firewall also. Many people have these devices at home and often serve as WiFi access points for users. We often see residential/home grade routers in existing pharmacies and we do not recommend this. It is easy to think routers serve the same purpose at home as it does in the business but that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to networking. Business routers/firewalls have more more advanced features such as VPNs, VLANS, Load Balancing, Failover/backup and other features the pharmacy will use.
For example: Your business grade router/firewall will have input for multiple internet connections so if the primary internet goes down the router/firewall is smart enough to recognize this and switch the the backup internet automatically. Another example: You have multiple pharmacy locations and you want one pharmacy to help out the other when things get busy. Through a VPN on your router Pharmacy A can see Pharmacy B’s server over the VPN and can log into their system to help the workflow.
Usually the router/firewall is the most advanced piece of technology in the pharmacy. We like to install Dell SonicWALLS into our clien’t pharmacies because of the security protection that comes with these devices. There are many different business grade routers available and we recommend understanding how these devices work in-case they have issues going forward.
WiFi: Your router will often serve as your wireless internet access point. You should have two WiFi connections for your pharmacy. One should be for use by pharmacy equipment only with it’s own unique password. Devices such as tablets and wireless laptops should be connected to this secure network. Do not allow employees or patients to log onto this network. All of your data is stored on this network.
The other network should be for employees and patients, a “guest network”. This guest network should be separate from your main WiFi network and have a different password. This is the WiFi users can log on with their cell phones and personal devices.
Modems in the Pharmacy
Your internet modem is what connects the internet to your pharmacy network. The modem receives information from your local internet provider through phone lines, coax(cable) lines or optical fiber and converts it into a digital signal. Your pharmacy relies on the internet to process credit cards and run prescription insurance. When the connection is slow or nonexistent – your whole day could be ruined and patients can become upset very quickly. That is why it is important to have a reliable internet connection for your pharmacy.
If your pharmacy is experiencing slow or no connection the first step to resolve the issue would be to power cycle the internet modem. This should be done once a month no matter if you are having issues or not. Usually this fixes the problem unless there is an outage in the area. Which is why you should always have a second internet option for backup. Your primary internet service should be up 99% of the time but that 1% will happen and you want to make sure your pharmacy is prepared with a backup internet.
Static IP: If you are ordering internet service for your pharmacy you will be asked about a “Static IP” this is a number the internet provider assigns to your business. This number will never change and certain pharmacy software services requires this. It is best to check with your software vendor to see if they require this for data backups and remote logins. You can also get an expert advise from our Pharmacy Consultant
Your pharmacy switch connects your computers, phones, printers, cameras and more together. A switch serves as a controller to enable the devices plugged into them the ability to talk to each other efficiently. All of your pharmacy data drops are routed back to your switch and patch panel.
Your switch is usually very reliable and most of them last for over 10 years with no issues. Some older pharmacies will use multiple small switches if their store is not wired/cabled properly. We recommend only using one main switch. The more switches you have in your pharmacy the more room for error or something to go bad. These switches come in 24, 48 and more ports. Most pharmacies can get away with a 48 port switch but if your pharmacy is rather large with a lot of computers and printers you may want to look at larger switches
A modern switch may implement power over Ethernet (PoE), which avoids the need for attached devices, such as VOIP phones to have a separate power. Another device that can be powered by your switch is your credit card terminals, sometimes those have the PoE option and only need 1 cord going to the back of the device.
ConfigRX has installed over 50 networking systems in pharmacies across the country. Our start a pharmacy package as well as our buy a pharmacy audit includes our network setup service. Contact us if you have questions about networking for your pharmacy.