Implement a wireless infrastructure that we can trust, our focus has moved from the infrastructure to new end-user applications and devices.
Materials used in the construction of large buildings degrade and distort radio frequency signals.
You had multiple legacy networks in place for your various wireless applications. What led you to seek out a different solution?
Mobile clinical technologies, such as Computerized Physician Order Entry, Radiology PACS, Ambulatory and Inpatient EMR, and Vital Sign Integration have become a necessity for physicians, nurses and staff.
Additionally, smartphone communications and entertainment for patients, families and visitors have increased.
Wireless services have moved from a “nice to have” to mission critical. But early attempts to establish mobile solutions and workflow were intermittent due to spotty Wi-Fi coverage and a very limited deployment of single-carrier cellular support.
What is your vision of comprehensive wireless and how is it pivotal to delivering exceptional care?
Comprehensive wireless is now center stage at Cook Children’s and led us to build a business case for the Medical Grade Wireless Utility (MGWU). We had substantial goals. The MGWU would provide a hospital-owned infrastructure to transport any wireless signal across more than 1 M sq. ft. of the Medical Center. It would offer multi-carrier smartphone support for everyone. It would enable mobile workflow by improving Wi-Fi reliability for enterprise and clinical users. And it would ease the hospital stay for patients, families, and visitors.
The MGWU would make financial sense. The highly engineered wireless solution would lessen reliance on vendors and enable IT to roll out new applications and devices without worrying about underlying infrastructure or costly infection control issues.
How did your vision of a more comprehensive wireless solution lead you to Black Box?
We selected Black Box because of their expertise and experience with in-building wireless infrastructures in complex hospital environments.
To address both present and future wireless needs, Cook’s Children and Black Box converted disparate legacy wireless networks into a comprehensive wireless solution capable of supporting 4G cellular, Wi-Fi, medical telemetry, pagers, 2-way radio, and public safety.
How did Black Box’s experience facilitate your implementation?
Black Box surveyed the entire Cook Children’s campus and optimized each and every wireless frequency to ensure consistent reliability everywhere in the medical center, including elevators, restrooms, and stairways.
Black Box focused on coverage, capacity, and criticality. For cellular, this included meeting the carrier requirements to isolate the hospital from the external cellular network. For Wi-Fi, it included segmenting traffic across multiple WLANS so that guest, enterprise, and medical usage could be managed independently, without affecting each other.
Only after this attention to detail and the associated rigorous engineering was the solution deployed.
VoIP was an area where you needed to make substantial gains in terms of coverage and reliability.
Has the MGWU delivered as you had hoped?
Now that Cook Children’s has a wireless infrastructure that we can trust, our focus has moved from the infrastructure to new end-user applications and devices.
The first was a Vocera VoIP solution that integrated nurse call and bedside physiological monitoring alarms in the neonatal intensive care unit where Cook Children’s most fragile patients receive highly specialized and monitored care.
Reliable and silent communications that allow nurses to be both mobile and in contact with patients has enabled Cook Children’s to create a calming private room setting that vastly improves the patient/family experience. Parents can stay in the room 24x7 and the two-way communications for both assistance calls and medical alarms enable nursing to be efficient while providing critical emergency response across an expansive set of private rooms.
You also had aggressive goals for a Bedside Medication Verification (BMV) initiative. How is that working out with the MGWU?
A clinician-driven initiative, Cook Children’s wanted to achieve an average hospital scan rate much higher than the industry average of 70 percent. Again, we did not have to worry about the wireless environment, so IT was able to focus on usability of the barcode scanners, printers, and even the barcode band that would be placed on patient wrists. When it came to rollout, the system integrity and continuity allowed IT to concentrate on training and support of the new application to maximize nursing adoption. The results have been astounding with more than 97 percent of patients and their medications being scanned on a daily basis.
With the proliferation of wireless devices and applications, you were concerned with device density and any system’s ability to keep pace over time. How has the MGWU faired for you?
With the general growth of wireless, the number of devices in a single room can challenge most wireless infrastructures. It is not uncommon now to have 4-to-6 wireless medical devices in a room and 4-to-6 wireless devices used by family, visitors, and patients for a total of a dozen wireless devices in a room.
At Cook Children’s, the number of wireless devices has increased by more than 1,000 percent over the last 5 years with most of this growth on the GuestNet.
But with the ability to offer different types of wireless connections and the ability to segregate Wi-Fi traffic between guest-critical, enterprisecritical, and life-critical, Cook Children’s has been able to manage this growth, keeping the GuestNet in check without impacting the throughput or reliability of the enterprise and medical applications.