Recently Miami Jewish Health Systems deployed a wireless environment at its 22 acre healthcare facility. I am sharing the 16 month process and the lessons learned.
This all began in March 2009 after the development of a 3-year technology strategic plan. I must stress here that it was key for this plan to be in alignment with the corporate strategic plan, with technology being one of the key underpinnings. From the very beginning, C-level leadership was engaged as part of a technology leadership council in the development, communication, and sharing of the technology plan.
While IT was the driver of the technology plan, the entire management team was part of it. An outcome of the technology plan was a list of prioritized business technology initiatives, with wireless being one of them. For each prioritized item, a detailed cost/benefit analysis was completed. Due to this process, leadership had a pretty good idea of the business needs and benefits this technology could bring, and the costs associated with it.
For wireless, the business drivers were
- improved quality of patient care through bed-side care delivery
- potential reduction in medication errors with point-of-care data entry
- improved operational efficiency with aids such as bed tracking
- improved resident and guest satisfaction with access to the Internet for many who bring their laptops
- a source of revenue from providing the Internet access to residents and guests
During this time, IT completed its research on available vendors able to provide not only a complete wireless solution, but also had, or were planning to have, specific solutions that could be potentially useful in the near future at MJHS.
Technology evaluation was also important — as part of the due diligence we found that one vendor’s product claim for faster wireless capacity throughput was under challenge for use of non-industry standard protocols, and could be in for serious trouble for throughput if different standards were to be implemented.
At the end of the evaluation and RFP process, we ended with a list of three vendors, selecting one according to a requirements-based ranking scheme. One learning from this part of the project was the need to thoroughly evaluate vendors, not only for their technology underpinnings and product claims, but also for their long-term strategy and ability to partner. This was true strategic vendor evaluation and management in the sense that the vendor was selected not only as an equipment or solutions provider, but also as a long-term partner. In turn, this vendor has brought along their vendor/s — all will be evaluated as we go along.
The pre-deployment phase required us to completely re-design our data network with separate VLANs. We were planning to do this anyway, but this project accelerated the need. So, for anyone planning for a wireless network, do consider this aspect of the design not only for throughput reasons, but for security as well. In our case, one requirement was to design the network to be completely separate for guests and residents from the corporate network. This was for security and manageability. Today, residents and guests accessing the network are completely separate from our corporate network with significant reduction in data security risks; this is very different from many healthcare facilities I have seen where outsiders can hop in without authentication.
The deployment phase brought to light the critical requirement to manage a multi-vendor project closely and assign clear accountabilities. Some delays that were anticipated and came to fruition were: the product delivery and testing, cabling and, overall, readiness assessment before go-live. Also, always insist that the vendor provide a resource knowledgeable about the entire solution, and not only the individual components. It is at the hand-off points where solutions likely fail.
We also ensured we had a process for issuing and managing guest and resident accounts because we have multiple staff in various locations — such as the resident living facilities, hotels and nursing home — trained in issuing user credentials. One challenging customer service item is the situation where guests have difficulties with their equipment settings, don’t know about it, can’t access the Internet, and come to us for help. So for those planning a wireless install, please think this through.
Finally, after go-live I can say, the following are some key lessons:
- Executive involvement, business-based cost/benefit analysis, and buy-in is key
- Multi-partner implementations are a reality and be mindful of the long-term
- Skilled multi-partner project management is a critical success factor
- The customer has a key role in managing the project
- Insist lead vendor engage resources skilled in the solution, not in individual equipment
- Accurate pre- and post-install site survey is critical
- Be mindful of the criticality of information security and design the network accordingly
- Constant and honest communication is vital
- Between partners
- Anticipate problems and allow time in master schedule
- Training, training, training
- Engage end-users
- “Plan the work; work the plan”