Life-saving medical devices require better monitoring and rock-solid Wi-Fi connectivity. 7SIGNAL provided A CUSTOM SOLUTION FOR Akron Children’s Hospital via insight into the end-user perspective.

 

Wireless networking is a major challenge for many hospitals since they manage an increasing number of connected equipment and have to maintain coverage for large areas. And medical devices on the Internet of Things (IoT) and various applications require strong connections.

Akron Children’s Hospital is Northeast Ohio’s largest pediatric hospital, with 359 beds and 4,600 staff members. The hospital struggled with Wi-Fi quality and consistent connectivity, a significant problem considering the critical devices that staff and patients depend on.

The hospital's WLAN needed to become reliable. 

The Challenge: Akron Children’s Hospital

“Our goal is to make wireless serve medical applications at all times,” said Russ Johnson, the hospital’s network manager.

But the biggest challenges to accomplishing that goal were the incoming devices and traffic that overwhelmed both the hospital and guest networks. The variance of device types and necessary WLAN configuration changes were impacting Wi-Fi connectivity and quality.

Unfortunately, the facility was also struggling to understand how each user experienced the connection, which delayed responding to problems and addressing the underlying issues causing network disruptions.

"If you don't know how service is delivered to end-users, you don't know enough. We did not have this visibility and were suffering," said Johnson.

The Solution: End-User Wireless Monitoring for Better Visibility

It was clear to the 7SIGNAL team that Akron Children’s Hospital needed more visibility to deal with substantial increases in traffic and devices. 7SIGNAL’s wireless network monitoring software provided that foundation. It was first installed within the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Emergency Department (ED), and a remote clinic.

The platform’s Sapphire Eye® sensors were deployed so IT staff could monitor how the network was performing from the end-user’s perspective. The monitoring platform uncovered issues such as low end-user association success rates, long end-to-end delays, high rates of retransmission, high packet loss, voice quality drops in the evening, and low daytime throughput at the remote clinic.

The reasons for these problems were many, including:

  • Ineffective antennae type and position
  • Co-channel interference
  • Inconsistencies in LAN/WAN routing between SSIDs
  • Incorrectly configured remote routers

These problems couldn’t be identified without the additional visibility provided by 7SIGNAL. Gathering this specific data was crucial in improving medical devices' connectivity and increasing the level of support when an issue occurred.

As Director of Network Infrastructure Brian Kuner said, "Based on feedback from our end-users, we felt our network had these issues but had no way to quantify and pinpoint them—until now.”

The Outcome: Improved Network Performance

As soon as the Akron Children’s Hospital network team could implement the right corrective actions, they saw quick results:

  • 110% increase in throughput
  • 80% reduction in packet loss
  • 50% reduction in retransmissions
  • 35% reduction in end-to-end network delays
  • 20% increase in receipt of access point beacons

More Sapphire sensors were deployed throughout the hospital's critical clinical areas and five remote locations to address additional device-congestion issues. And the WLAN was upgraded to support 802.11n.

The hospital was planning an Epic EMR (electronic medical record) rollout, so the new monitoring system needed to identify issues that may get in the way of the deployment. The Sapphire Eye was able to proactively provide engineers visibility into existing network issues, including a rapid increase in retransmissions and reduced RF signals because of recently deployed “Computers on Wheels” carts.

With new data about the issues, the team was able to take corrective actions. And facts drove the decisions surrounding the Epic EHR deployment.

“Sapphire not only helped us to recognize issues that could have jeopardized our Epic rollout, it enabled us to validate corrective actions before end users were impacted,” said Akron CIO Tom Ogg. “This was a perfect example of risk management, change control, and fact-based decision making, which are crucial when deploying Wi-Fi for mission-critical medical applications.”

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