Boston Children’s Hospital is installing a private hybrid 5G network from cell phone carrier T-Mobile, in part to prepare for its upcoming switch to Epic's electronic health record system.
The 5G network also will enable the hospital to run its virtual health programs more effectively and improve communications between clinicians, said Heather Nelson, Boston Children's chief information officer.
“We coined a phrase, ‘Any device, anywhere, anytime, securely,’” Nelson said. “This is really about ensuring that we are able to have the foundational technologies in place to support the care and the research that happens here.”
As healthcare becomes more digitized, hospitals are seeing the value of investing in a private 5G network rather than relying on traditional Wi-Fi networks. In March, Verizon Business said it was deploying a private 5G network at Cleveland Clinic's 'smart' hospital. The Mentor, Ohio-based hospital opened in July with the 5G network used to power various digital health innovations. In February 2020, the Veterans Affairs Department’s Palo Alto Health Care System became the first 5G-enabled hospital in its system.
Neither Boston Children's nor T-Mobile disclosed the cost of installing the 5G network.
Nelson said the network should be in place by year's end and Epic should be installed by June. Deciding to go with Epic's EHR and a 5G network were part of Boston Children's clinical mobility strategy overhaul, she said.
The hybrid network combines a traditional macro-cellular network and a private network. Traditional Wi-Fi networks aren’t meant for mobility in the ways that a hospital might require, such as a nurse or doctor running down the hall while talking on a connected device, said Chris Melus, vice president of product management at T-Mobile..
Nelson said the hospitals are evolving from fixed desktops at nursing stations to using tablets to document at a patient’s bedside.
“Our nurses are very excited about this,” Nelson said. “They can use their devices more consistently…and not get bummed out when they're walking from the car back onto the unit and their call drops.”
As Boston Children’s becomes more digital, including adding employees who specialize in generative artificial intelligence, the 5G network is needed to handle the additional connectivity requirements, Nelson said.