When Halton Healthcare set out to relocate several of its hospital facilities into tech-forward “smart” hospitals, leaders laid out a vision that would enable the three-hospital health system to keep patients, providers and community at the center of its services. This meant, above all, making sure the 4,300 staff and 300 physicians could communicate effectively, even in the face of dramatic growth throughout the system.
With Halton Healthcare’s IT team planning for a jump in facility size of four to five times, CIO Sandy Saggar and his team planned to upgrade the physical infrastructure and introduce mobile communications with the aim to ensure communication remained at the heart of everyday operations.
“The clinical areas were designed with the patients, families and clinicians in mind. For example, the inpatient unit design is made up of 12-bed pods, which keeps the nurses closer to their patients and any other necessary resources, such as the communication station or medication room,” Saggar says.
Moreover, every nurse was equipped with a Cisco mobile phone, which aimed to enable effective communication capabilities and streamline the flow of information via alarms and alerts, says Saggar. This amounted to a deployment of more than 700 IP mobile phones in Halton Healthcare’s Oakville, Milton and Georgetown locations, arming nurses with an upgraded alternative to the traditional nurse bell that could keep them more effectively clued in to the needs of their patients.
Now, after rolling out the mobility solution, Halton Healthcare reports a 50 percent increase in satisfaction rates from patients when it comes to nurse call bell response.
Converged Infrastructure Makes Unified Communications a Reality
Rolling out hundreds of mobile devices across the hospital without overwhelming IT or nursing staff was no easy feat, however. The heart of the smart hospital and communications upgrade was a single, converged infrastructure. By tapping a VCE Vblock system, which makes use of compute and networking from Cisco, storage from Dell EMC and virtualization technologies from VMware, Halton Healthcare was able to converge and simplify its underlying infrastructure.
“The VBlock infrastructure was critical for our data center to move from our legacy hospital to our new hospital, with a migration of more than 400 servers and no downtime,” says Saggar. “Additionally, it’s been critical in our day-to-day operations and our implementation of a disaster recovery solution.”
From a converged network perspective, Saggar says Halton Healthcare’s IT team layered the unified communications platform on top of its Cisco medical-grade network.
“This tight integration, along with critical voice and data communications, allowed for a stable and secure mobility environment which enabled successful adoption of the technology by our nurses,” says Saggar.
Training Proves Key to Overcoming Mobility Challenges
Aside from getting the underlying infrastructure in place, Halton Healthcare needed to ensure the nursing staff was properly trained on the devices and that the new technology would be helpful without causing “notification fatigue,” which can result from an influx of alerts that overwhelm staff.
“Migrating to a mobile-enabled workforce involves large change,” says Saggar. “We knew this change would be too large to deploy on the opening day of our new hospitals, especially considering there would be so many other changes taking place.”
To help manage the change, the IT team deployed the technology several months in advance of moving to the new facilities so that both hospital and IT staff had time to learn the new systems and work out any kinks prior to opening day.
“We deployed our Cisco mobile phones at our legacy hospital facilities to help ease the transition and manage the change. This time to ease into the solution gradually and alter any technical configurations or workflows proved to be very successful in the adoption of our mobility solution,” says Saggar.
Moreover, the hospital trained nurses using a variety of modalities, which helped to support multiple learning styles. Saggar’s team also provided nurses with guides and tip sheets on the hospital’s intranet for ongoing education.
And training wasn’t a once-and-done endeavor. The hospital provides ongoing security and privacy training, including mandatory annual e-learning courses that all staff must pass.
“This reinforces that they understand the security and privacy basics as well as any ongoing threats or updates that they should be aware of,” says Saggar. “On top of this, we conduct random internal security exercises (such as phishing) and use them as education opportunities. The communication around these internal exercises is really about building awareness around cyber risk from both a personal and professional perspective.”
Above all, when it comes to introducing a new mobility system, Saggar emphasizes that the change needs to be undertaken in collaboration with the stakeholders who will use the technology.
“Make sure you have nurses working with you along the way,” says Saggar. “They will be using the solution every day and will be able to guide the configuration and optimization of the system to help improve patient care.”