Healthcare Providers Must Ensure All Angles Are Covered During Network Upgrades

Recommendations from IT leaders include defining business requirements, soliciting feedback from stakeholders and not limiting the decision to cost matters.

According to a survey of Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Technology members published earlier this year, wireless network quality continues to grow as a priority for provider organizations, especially with the proliferation of wireless biomedical devices.

However, wireless upgrades for healthcare organizations require planning on multiple fronts, and not just by IT and networking leaders.

“If you have an issue, you can’t just shut down your wireless system,” Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of eHealth Initiative, tells HealthTech. “There’s no downtime for improving your network, so it can be tough work. And that requires a lot of upfront time thinking through what you need the network to do now, as well as planning for future capabilities.”

Healthcare IT leaders have several recommendations to ensure that all angles are covered.

MORE FROM HEALTHTECH: Discover how healthcare organizations are boosting network capacity to meet IoT demand.

Define Investment Requirements, But Consider More Than Cost

For instance, Laura Bagus, vice president of IT at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, says that it helps to first define business requirements, skill sets, and capital and operating investment.

“And make sure to include not just your networking team but also organizational stakeholders in the entire process and selection. It helps with the adoption of change if that is the outcome,” she says.

Jake Dorst, chief information and innovation officer at Truckee, Calif.-based Tahoe Forest Health System, says organizations shouldn’t rule out smaller, lesser-known applications.

“Your team really needs to get down in the weeds with your end users to find out what is the one-off piece of software that they have on their computers that they absolutely have to have,” says Dorst, whose organization recently switched to a mobile-first healthcare network from Aruba.

Meanwhile Dominic Freeman, network manager at Community HealthCare System in Onaga, Kan., says decision-makers would be wise to consider more than just the initial price.

“Consider how well the vendor is going to support it and the lifecycle costs,” says Freeman, whose organization is in the midst of standardizing its entire switch and wireless infrastructure on Cisco Meraki solutions. “Not just what you have to pay out of pocket but the costs you’ll avoid and the fact that you’ll be able to provide more efficient and better support.”

Dorst and Tahoe Forest Health System applied the latter thinking to their effort. The health system was facing a $1.8 million network refresh to stay on a previous platform, which would also have included purchasing security and management software tools to go with it.

According to Dorst, the health system would have incurred more than $2.5 million in estimated fees to remain on the previous platform over the next five years, including hardware costs.

In moving to its new platform — which was a complete replacement instead of a refresh and included the software and hardware required for security — the health system estimates it will save between $750,000 and $1 million over the next five years. What’s more, Dorst expects the new vendor’s hardware to be supported on average about two years longer than Tahoe Forest’s previous vendor.

“We are a small team, so this is going to save us time and free up resources so we can really start digging into the new features and setting up more automation, which will allow us to focus that much more of our time on other key IT areas and supporting our users,” he tells HealthTech.

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May 15 2019

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