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February 22, 2017updated 28 Mar 2017 4:29pm

Plymouth Hospital goes mobile

By John Oates

Plymouth NHS Trust began working with HPE’s Aruba Networks to give staff mobile access to hospital systems from wherever they were on the site. The hospital has 900 beds and serves a local population of 450,000 people. It provides specialised services like kidney treatment and accident and emergency cover to two million people across the south-west of England.

Security was a primary motivation for the initial project and Aruba promised better security than the hospital’s existing wired network.

After testing several vendors the hospital found Aruba could offer the required security at the lowest cost.

The second consideration was reliability – hospital systems need to work all the time, every time.

The initial project gave staff access to patient records and access to blood test results and other information from hospital systems. Staff can also book tests and X-rays from the point of care.

After this was successfully implemented the trust added VOIP calls and extended the network to cover some of the hospital grounds as well.

Although mostly based in one building, Derriford Hospital, the nature of a hospital provided unique challenges for the project and for Aruba’s partner Pervasive Networks. Every floor is a different shape and the building is stuffed with pipework and electrical equipment – both medical and architectural.

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Aruba’s Adaptive Radio Network technology, allied with its Airwave management software, gave confidence that the network would effectively support itself. Airwave gives management the diagnostic information to trace, monitor and diagnose any other problems users have – usually not related to the network itself.

Despite the challenges of the working hospital environment installation of the network was completed within a month.

On top of services for the hospital staff the network also supports a Wi-Fi network for use by patients and visitors which is managed by outside supplier to reduce overheads for the IT team. This provides access to about 2,500 guests and patients every day.

The network is being extended to the community support team who will be equipped with tablet devices using 3G and 4G networks while doing their work. It is also piloted Windows 8 tablet devices and a review of Android and Apple iOS to deepen support for Bring Your Own Device.

The hospital’s next requirements for mobility include adding access to the Theatres Information Management system, Electronic Prescribing and Medicines Administration, Digital Care Records solution and a locally developed Patient Care Manager for real-time bed and care pathway management.

Rob Harder. Head of IT infrastructure at Plymouth Hospital, told last year’s Discover conference in London that the first stage of the project provided connectivity for laptops and phones to the hospital’s clinical diagnostic system.

Harder said:

“We’re preparing our own transformation journey and dealing with digital disruption. We have a fairly simple case – to go paperless. Why? We have 80 clinical IT systems in use, but the main medical records system is still paper based. There are big advantage to this – it is mobile and records can travel with the patient. But there are limitations – the records can only be in one place at one time.

We want to digitise these records so they can be accessible from anywhere. This application is driving us away from a fixed computer network to a predominantly mobile network.”

Harder said the hospital was also making use of simple tracking technology using Wi-Fi tags. This was mainly used not for expensive equipment but for kit which is needed quickly in an emergency.

One of the first uses was tracking patient trolleys in the Accident and Emergency department. Trolleys frequently went missing and A & E kept requesting new equipment.

The Wi-Fi tags meant the could track the trolleys to a neighbouring department which had been hoarding them.

Harder said: “We had nurses spending time searching for equipment. They have more time with the patient now.”

Looking forward Harder said the hospital wanted to make better use of location technology to help guide visitors during what can be daunting and disorientating experiences. The hospital has nine entrances and 200 departments. Location technology can help get people to the right place at the right time and allow the hospital to provide relevant information to the right patient to improve the experience and make it less distressing.

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