The CCH required wall-to-wall 3G wireless, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, and 1.4 GHz medical telemetry coverage in order to realize our ambitious care model. VCUHS installed a single broadband in-building wireless coverage solution that includes a passive distributed antenna system (DAS) supporting a frequency range from 400 MHz to 6 GHz and a very dense deployment of wireless devices and applicationsincluding 100 smart phones, 125 two-way radio devices, 600 VoWLAN phones for nurses and respiratory therapists, 240 wireless pendant VoWLAN phones, 300 mobile computers, paging, public Internet access, and more than 100,000 square feet of wireless medical telemetry throughout the entire hospital.
The wireless infrastructure was designed to provide guaranteed coverage and signal strength, allowing us to extend wireless coverage to every part of the facility and virtually eliminating dead zones. The solution delivers this functionality at a total cost of ownership that is substantially lower than other comparable solutions. When VCUHS first looked into the installation of multiple discrete wireless systems, we estimated the cost to be around $2 million. By comparison, this multiservice system cost just under $900,000, including hardware, design, installation, provisioning, and project management.
In terms of maintenance, VCUHS employs three wireless engineers at a cost of nearly $300,000 annually to manage 1 million square feet of wireless coverage throughout the entire medical campusand these engineers spend less than 5% of their time managing the system in the CCH. The rest of their time is spent managing conventional wireless issues in other buildings.
The solution also improves network performance compared with discrete wireless systems. By providing a consistent user experience, calls to the help desk are greatly reduced.
With our new wireless infrastructure, virtually every clinical system can take advantage of wireless capabilities, from our intravenous pumps to mobile CT scans and MRI machines. Our electronic medical record system is available in all patient rooms, providing point-of-care information for every patient encounter.
Unlike other hospitals, in the neonatal intensive-care unit of the CCH, every infant has a private room where ambient noise and light can be controlled, families can have privacy, and the mobile communication system allows visitors to communicate with the clinical staff.
One of the problems that we faced is that the NICU environment generates many alarm situations, and oftentimes these alerts are false, caused by artifact. Because of the capabilities of this system, were able to deliver the actual patient alerts to a nurses mobile handset so they can determine whether the alert is caused by a real issue or is the result of an artifact. The wireless solution means nurses can care for patients as well as they could when the infants were all co-located in the same room, while the infants now enjoy an environment that is more developmentally appropriate.
The hospital has already seen a 5% increase in the number of NICU admissions because of the stress-free, all-private-room environment that our wireless solution enables.
Patient satisfaction has risen because of the noise reduction from the remote distribution of wireless alerts and alarms. Nurses have also reported a drop in pain medication requirements because of the tranquility of the care environment. And response time for patient alerts is at its fastest, enhancing patient safety because wireless telemetry now monitors patients continuously, regardless of where they or the caregivers are in the facility.
Clinicians who move between the main hospital and the CCU appreciate the dramatic improvement in wireless capabilities at the new facility, noting that the level of wireless service drops off considerably when they move from the CCU to the main hospital, because of the limitations imposed by conventional wireless deployments. As a result, VCUHS is seeking funding to expand its new wireless solution throughout the entire campus.
We are in the process of applying for a grant through the National Telecommunications and Information Administrations Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Congress recently appropriated nearly $5 billion for eligible entities to expand broadband services. VCUHS is developing a grant proposal in the hope that these funds will help us to expand a revolutionary system that is improving overall patient care and satisfaction.
Chief technology officer and director of technology and engineering services
Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Richmond